Olympic star back as national judo coach
By NORIDEEN KITCHELL and KEVIN FAURE
TWO-TIME Olympic medallist David Starbrook, left out in the cold after a political split in local judo five years ago, has been reappointed national coach by the Hongkong Judo Association.
But he was given an early warning of the task ahead of him when last night's annual meeting he was at turned into a fiasco.
It had to be postponed because only 19 of the the 52 clubs with voting rights turned up. A quorum of 27 clubs was needed for the meeting to go ahead.
Starbrook's appointment was revealed last night by association chairman Henry Shing Yuen-hing at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai, shortly before the meeting was due to take place.
Shing said there had been some ''misunderstandings'' between Starbrook and members of the association's committee in the past.
''We at the association and David have a mutual aim and it is to help the sport, that was why we can easily forget our past differences. We need a full-time coach and he is the right man for the job,'' said Shing.
Starbrook, who won a silver medal for Britain at the 1972 Munich Olympics and a bronze at the Montreal Olympics four years later, says: ''There's been problems in the past but it's not in my blood to be a tyrant with these people.
''I'm in it for the sport, and I'm looking forward to helping the youngsters get the best out of judo.'' Starbrook's appointment will not be made official until endorsed by the Sports Development Board.
But this is expected to be a formality, especially as the SDB are believed to have pushed for Starbrook's appointment.
Starbrook starts coaching immediately, taking charge of the national squad at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium tonight. He has offered to give his services for free until his appointment is confirmed.
He says: ''I'll only be doing this part-time, as I still have my own judo schools to run - that's my business - but I'll be taking the senior squad for training once or twice a week, doing weight training with them in the mornings at weekends, organising training camps, things like that.'' The judo association have come under scrutiny for operation procedures and selection methods and are anxious to prove to the SDB they operate professionally and fairly.
They have received less and less government funding in recent years and the SDB made it clear that their image needed improving.
With the appointment of Starbrook, one the world's mostly highly respected coaches, they believe they can do that, though the postponement of last night's meeting will have come as an untimely embarrassment.
Shing said: ''We now need to draw up a proposal to the SDB for grants, so we can officially appoint David as our full-time national coach. In the meantime, he has agreed to oversee our national squad training on a voluntary basis.'' The Hongkong team have a busy international schedule this year, starting with next month's East Asian Games in Shanghai.
Starbrook, who was awarded an OBE for his services to British judo, arrives too late to be of much help to the team in Shanghai, but this is a big year for judo with the Pacific Rim tournament in New Zealand, World Championships in Canada and the Asian Championships.
His pedigree is impressive - he was coach of the British team at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and helped his squad to two medals, including a silver for one-time world champion Neil Adams.
The main target now will be building a Hongkong team with medal chances at next year's Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan.
Starbrook first came to Hongkong in 1985, as judo coach of the Jubilee Sports Centre - what is now the Hongkong Sports Institute.
His role as a technical coach to the national team coincided with Hongkong enjoying their best ever spell in international judo, including a haul of two golds, three silvers and a bronze from the 1987 Australian Open.
But political infighting led to the formation of a splinter group called the Hongkong Judo Federation. The Jubilee banned the association and federation until they resolved their differences. They didn't, and Starbrook, in isolation, concentrated on building up a business running children's classes.
The annual meeting is being rescheduled for later next month. A date has to be finalised but it will be held on a Sunday.