Training schemes 'also need funding'
Head coach Choi pleads for better distribution
Lavishing HK$20 million on elite athletes would not buy success unless the money was spent wisely, a leading coach said yesterday.
Tony Choi Yuk-kwan, head of squash at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, welcomed the government's move to increase elite athletes' incomes by up to 100 per cent, but said support for the training programme was equally important if the government was looking for more success on the international stage.
'It is definitely good news for athletes as their monthly incomes will increase,' said Choi, who coached Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin and Christina Mak Pui-hin to silver and bronze medals respectively at the Doha Asian Games last December.
'They have trained hard in order to excel in the sporting field and deserve to get more monetary support.
'However, more money for athletes does not automatically mean more success. An athlete needs to work hard before he can win a medal and this cannot happen without top-class coaching, training, competition, sports science and sports medicine support. If the government has injected more monetary support to individual athletes, they should do the same for the training programmes.'
Choi cited the case of Mak and the investment in the player before she won a medal in Doha. 'I entered her in more ranking tournaments last year so she could gain a better seeding in the Asian Games. I also employed overseas training partners to sharpen her skills prior to the games. All this cost money from my training programme budget. This was done at the expense of other athletes' training budgets,' said Choi. 'If I have more money in the training budget, I can provide more training and competitions for other athletes as well.
'Our programme has far more athletes than we had seven years ago, and as a result we need to spend more on the training programme, but unfortunately this has not been the case because our budget has been frozen.'
Under the new scheme, which unifies the Sports Aid Foundation, the Sports Institute's monthly stipend and the new government financial injection, elite A athletes will receive a minimum of $21,250 each month up to a maximum $32,000.
Currently the top earners receive $17,500.
For elite B athletes, their monthly income will be increased from an average of $10,000 to between $11,900 and $18,200.
For elite C athletes, their monthly income will be increased from an average of $5,000 to between $8,500 and $13,000.
The windfall comes from half of the $40 million injection announced by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in his Policy Address.
The government will contribute $6 million to the 13 elite sports programmes at the Sports Institute from this financial year, but Choi said the amount could not compare with the $20 million handed directly to the athletes.
Of the $14 million left, half will go to an athletes' retirement fund and the other half has yet to be allocated. 'Each of the 13 sports can get about $500,000 from the new funding, which is not enough,' Choi said. 'I hope the sports can get at least $10 million altogether.'
Current Unified scheme
Elite A $17,500 (maximum) $21,250-$32,500
Elite B $10,000 (average) $11,900-$18,200
Elite C $5,000 (average) $8,500-$13,000
Elite A (disabled) $4,100 (average) $5,400 (average)
SOURCE: HK GOVERNMENT