Pets vie for glory in Hong Kong pet Olympics

Look out Usain Bolt, here comes SeSe, the red-eared slider.

(Provided by Tortoise Big Bite Bite gets a snack after a blazing 26-second finish in the Olympets turtle crawl.

OK, it’s not a fair comparison. Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter, and SeSe is a Chinese turtle. But both are Olympians and both won gold medals in their respective events. While Bolt was breaking records in Beijing, SeSe, owned by Kitty Wong, took gold in the turtle crawl at the first-ever Pet Olympics, held in Hong Kong over the last 10 weekends.

With a 19-second finish, SeSe beat out African spurred tortoise Big Bite Bite and Dong Dong the leopard tortoise. Big Bite Bite and Dong Dong tied for second place with 26-second crawls.

The Olympets, as it is called, was sponsored by PetMAX, a 50,000-square-foot pet-oriented supermall located in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. Opened in 2007, PetMAX is the first Hong Kong mall in which pets are allowed. It is home to nine pet specialty stores including spas, training and grooming services, and even an American dog-treat bakery.

PetMAX owner Howard Cheung said the goal of the competition was to complement the Beijing Olympics and promote proper care of companion animals. Money from the event was also donated to charity.

“We want to promote ‘pets need exercise’ and the ‘right concept of raising pets,’” Cheung said. “Also, PetMAX is the first pet-themed [mall] in HK, which occupies 40,000 [square feet] with a 10,000-square-foot outdoor playground, which will be best to hold such games.”

Cheung said about 12 percent of Hong Kong’s seven million residents are pet owners, with about 200,000 dog owners, and 100,000 cat owners. He said dogs were the best athletes at the Olympets, and most canine participants were toy poodles, Welsh corgis and Pomeranians. About 400 dogs and 50 other animals competed in the games. The doggie 100-foot dash was the most popular event, he said.

The events were divided into five main categories: dog, cat, small animal, bird and reptile. Events for dogs were the most numerous. They included sprinting, high jump, long jump, tug of war, push ups, and free gymnastics. Cats had only two events, high jump and obstacle course. Other events included the chinchilla roll (chinchillas are called “dragon cats” in Chinese), rabbit hurdles (gold medalist was BoBo) and two parrot events.

Green Pepper, a red-fronted conure, ascended a rope in 13 seconds to snag the gold in the small parrot rope climb. Pepper did not fair well in the free speed trials, however, and did not complete the race. That event was dominated by Grass, a Jardine’s parrot who finished the course in four seconds. Q-kid, an Alexandrine parakeet took silver, and another Jardine’s, Ding Ding, took home the bronze.

Aside from its general hilarity and its promotional value to PetMAX, Olympets also had a charitable function. All of the money from registration fees will be donated to the Hong Kong nonprofit Sowers Action. The money will be used to help victims of the May 12 earthquake in mainland China. Cheung said the final numbers are not in yet, but he has raised about HK$30,000 so far, equivalent to nearly US$4,000.

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