Disabled enter race for target sport cash
By NAZVI CAREEM
HONG KONG'S disabled athletes could benefit from the Sports Development Board's (SDB) target sports scheme, while soccer is most likely to lose their elite status.
The Hong Kong Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SAPD) have had a series of talks with the SDB regarding their expanded allocation of target sports this year and are poised to make a formal application.
However, according to a source, 'there is a 90 per cent chance that soccer will be dropped'.
The SDB's chief executive, Howard Wells, would not comment on which sports would be involved in the programme but said a lot would depend on what disciplines received support from the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
Honorary secretary of the SAPD, Patrick Ng, said the extra cash that comes with being awarded target sport status would be of enormous benefit to the body's development programmes.
'If we get target sports status, it would help us increase manpower to drive our development programmes,' said Ng.
'It would increase publicity about disabled sports in Hong Kong and more people would know about what we are trying to do.' Hong Kong's disabled athletes were prominent in international events last year, winning 19 gold, 19 silver and 17 bronze medals at the FESPIC Games in Beijing.
The territory also won a gold and a bronze at an international wheelchair fencing tournament in Hong Kong.
Ng said there were around 600 disabled athletes in Hong Kong but the SAPD hoped to increase the base to around 3,000.
'One of the problems we have is to bridge the gap between the elite athletes and the rest,' he said.
'For that there needs to be a strong development programme and that's what we hope to do if we become a target sport.
'We will be able to use the money to bring in designated staff to implement a development scheme.' There are currently seven sports in the SDB's target sports programme, each receiving $400,000 extra each year, and it was believed the scheme would be expanded to cover 10 sports.
The territory's national sports associations were last year asked by the SDB to submit four-year pro-grammes to push their case for a place among the elite sports.
The existing seven target sports will also be making fresh applications.
Soccer, which is one of Hong Kong's few self-sufficient sports in terms of finance, was one sport being closely scrutinised as to whether or not it was a viable target sport.
The Institute has already decided which sports would receive support leading up to the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok but it has yet to make an official announcement.
The Institute was soon expected to announce a five-level support scheme for sports, the top level of which would reflect Hong Kong's best chances of attaining results on the international stage.
The SDB is also in the process of publishing a new strategic plan as the territory's blueprint for sport in the next four years.
The strategic plan is expected to come out later in the year.