Appel wants more resources to aid training
The sport needs 'more breathing space' to continue producing world beaters, according to Hong Kong head coach Rene Appel, who is tired of seeing his athletes rub shoulders with weekend warriors at Stanley - the only dedicated training facility.
Against all odds, Hong Kong are still managing to produce world champions in windsurfing - the latest being teenagers Ma Kwok-po and Chan Hei-man - a feat that Appel lauded as absolutely outstanding, considering that the sport has modest facilities.
'We have been the most successful sport in Hong Kong in recent years and consistently have proven ourselves. But we still lack the facilities, most of which are very cramped and basic,' said Appel yesterday.
'We need more breathing space for elite training. At the moment we have to share facilities with the public at Stanley. It is very crowded with Joe Public also there.'
His comments followed the runaway victories by 19-year-old Ma in the IMCO youth boys world championship and Chan, 15, in the IMCO junior girls championship in Marsala, Italy, last weekend.
The pair dominated their respective classes to seal the title with ease. Ma sailed conservatively on the final day of racing to total nine points from 11 races. His closest rival, Israeli Hazor Omri, was eight points behind. Chan also won with loads to spare, finishing her 10 races with 14 points, leaving closest rival Korsiz Bar, also from Israel, trailing by 13 points.
'I'm delighted with these results. While this is the first time we have won a world title in the junior girls category, Ma's win is the fourth time we have won the youth world championship. This shows there is a lot of depth in Hong Kong's windsurfing development programme,' said Appel.
Appel, who also coached Lee Lai-shan to Hong Kong's first Olympic gold medal back at the 1996 Atlanta Games, said the lack of bigger training facilities was a huge obstacle towards increasing the size of the elite and development squad.
'Presently we have seven athletes in the elite squad and 16 in our youth and junior squads. I would like to see more athletes in our junior programme now as it takes about 10 years for an athlete to develop. But we cannot increase numbers as we don't have the facilities,' said Appel.
A lack of numbers has forced Appel to rotate his small squad between training on the IMCO boards, which will be used during the Asian Games in Doha in December, and the new RSX boards, which will be used at the 2008 Olympic Games. Other countries, like China for instance, have set up separate squads for each event.
'We cannot afford to do that. We have to switch between training for the Asian Games and looking ahead to the Olympics. It is not an ideal situation,' said Appel.
Cowen Chiu But-kau, president of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association, revealed that the body is talking to the government about the possibility of getting additional facilities.
'There are two water sports centres run by the LCSD at St Stephen's beach and on the main beach, both in Stanley. We hope they can give us some space there,' said Chiu.
Appel added: 'We have come a long way since San San won her Olympic gold. But for the sport to continue to bring success to Hong Kong, we need more help.'