Hong Kong moves to close gap on Asian powerhouses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 April, 1999, 12:00am

A professional coaching structure tasked with closing the gap between the SAR's elite athletes and the Asian powerhouses will be in place by the end of the year, the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association (HKASA) announced.

While swimming coaching has until now been an amateur job, the HKASA wants to establish a professional career path for its coaches to improve the base standard of young swimmers.

Although Hong Kong swimmers have performed well in age-group meets in the region, they are lagging way behind other Asian countries in senior events.

'Although we have some international achievements - Mark Kwok Kin-ming captured a bronze medal at the Asian Games and teenage star Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai qualified for the semi-finals at the World Short-Course Championships over the weekend - we haven't reached the top level in Asia yet,' HKASA deputy honorary secretary Alan Shum Kar-lun said.

He said affiliated clubs would have to recruit professional coaches and be responsible for producing swimmers for major meets such as the Olympics and Asian Games.

While some elite swimmers train at the Sha Tin-based Sports Institute, Shum said a club-oriented training structure was the way forward.

'Training is very personal for swimmers as they get used to the methods of their own coaches. Under our plan, they would train under their club coaches and only be selected into the national squad before each major championships,' Shum said.

The HKASA will recruit a coaching director to serve as a middleman between it and the clubs.

This person will also have to work with the clubs to achieve the set goals.

'Whether from Hong Kong or overseas, the right candidate must have rich international experience and good management skills. We are also looking for someone who has led an Olympic or Asian Games team before,' Shum said.

While there is no standardised coaching qualification in the sport in Hong Kong, Shum said the structure would have five levels. A level-five coach must have trained an Olympic or Asian Games swimmer; a level-four coach's swimmers would have done well at an age-group meet in Asia; a level-three coach would operate at club level.