How the shots were called for peace pact

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 May, 1993, 12:00am

IF there was a Nobel Peace prize in sport, Hongkong could put up some strong candidates following the reunion of the Hongkong Judo Association and David Starbrook.

After all, these two make a very unlikely alliance.

There are those in the association who resent outside interference and have never really wanted him, while Starbrook has a thriving business teaching the sport to children and has no need to go back to them.

That it was possible to get them together owes much to a battle waged within the association by its chairman, Henry Shing Hing-yuen; to Starbrook's sheer love of the sport rising above any political considerations; and to diplomatic manoeuvring by the Sports Development Board (SDB) which would have done the United Nations proud.

The association's current leadership have shunned Starbrook's talents ever since taking control after a power struggle six years ago.

The turnaround in their thinking was almost certainly financially motivated.

For several years, they were able to do much as they pleased, not least when it came to deciding criteria for national team selection.

Victims included former Asian Championship bronze medallists Doris Lo Yih-ling; 1989 Asian Games bronze medallist Tina Yu Wai-seung; and past Dutch Open champion Hugo Weijermars, now a Hongkong resident.

But while other sports attracted generous grants from the government-sponsored SDB, judo was missing out.

And once the association approached them for a slice of the grants cake, the SDB finally had a lever.

They told association officials that their image had been badly tarnished, especially regarding selection procedures and complaints of favouritism. The association had to put its house in order if it wanted support - and that included appointing a world-class coach.

It didn't have to be Starbrook, but Howard Wells, the man who brought him to Hongkong in the first place, must have had him in mind.

And that's where Shing came to the fore. He fought for more than six months to win support from association colleagues, despite opposition from all-powerful president Samson Mak Yue-cheung, to have Starbrook appointed.

It took time - but Shing finally prevailed.