Triathlon, swimming fight for survival

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2008, 12:00am

Sports Institute poised to withdraw elite status

Triathlon and swimming are facing the axe from the Sports Institute's elite programme as they are unlikely to meet the review criteria.

Both underperforming sports have six weeks left to meet the required points standard, but they can keep their status for another two years thanks to a grace period.

The backing for elite sports from the institute includes coaching, facilities, local and overseas training and competitions, as well as sports science and medical support.

Badminton, cycling, fencing, rowing, squash, table tennis, tenpin bowling, windsurfing and wushu have met the criteria.

'The current review period ends next month, and there are not too many qualifying events left in the year,' said a Sports Institute official. 'Swimming and triathlon will find it tough to keep their status.'

It is believed swimming is close to making the required benchmark of nine points, and a squad of five swimmers, headed by Rosanna Sze Hang-yu, took part in the last two World Cup series in Stockholm and Berlin in a last-ditch attempt to keep the elite status.

A sport has to score a nine-point average from results of two senior and two junior athletes in a two-year period.

The formula for awarding points is complex, with performances weighted according to the importance of the event.

A medal in a World Cup series scores four points out of a maximum five in the senior category, which would be good enough for swimming to retain its elite status.

But the swimming team's best effort was Kelly Robinson's eighth place in the 50m butterfly in Berlin on Sunday.

However, even if the two sports fall short, they will have a two-year grace period - from April 2009 to March 2011 - to make the grade.

If they can score the required nine points during the period, they will be allowed to stay at the institute for another two-year support period before the next review.

Tenpin bowling failed to achieve the required score in the last review two years ago, and was then given the grace period.

'They [tenpin bowling] did well this year and have met the criteria. The sport will therefore be allowed to stay for another two years,' said the official.

Athletics and tennis, which both failed to meet the criteria for two consecutive reviews, were given their marching orders in April 2007.

Swimming was also in danger during the last review, but avoided the axe by performing well at the 2006 Asian championships in Singapore, where the squad won three medals - two from Hannah Wilson and one from Suen Ka-yi, enough to meet the points target.

Triathlon was also saved when Daniel Lee Chi-wo won a silver medal at the 2006 Dohn Asian Games.

Lee (pictured) said he was not aware his sport was in such great danger, and admitted they were unlikely to meet the criteria during the existing review period with no major competitions left.

'We will have to work hard during the grace period, or we have no chance of making it,' said Lee, who won a gold medal at the inaugural Asian Beach Games last month. That result, though, was not considered for the review.