Cash boost as gymnasts rejoin elite

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2011, 12:00am

Gymnastics is back in the Sports Institute after an absence of 12 years from Hong Kong's elite training centre.

The move will give the gymnastics association access to millions of dollars via the institute and the possibility of a world-class head coach to help them achieve results at the highest level in the next four years.

After reaching the required benchmark in the last review cycle, the sport will be reinstated as one of 15 elite programmes when the next round of funding begins in April.

'We have reached the standard and should be granted elite status [but] there is some paperwork before a formal announcement is made,' said a delighted Cheung Siu-yin, who chairs the Hong Kong Amateur Gymnastic Association.

'It is great news as we will get more support in future especially for our elite programme, and the return is also recognition for our hard work over the past decade,' Cheung said.

'We went through a lot of difficult times after we were shown the door from the Sports Institute in 1999, as we have been working with a limited budget. But thanks to the concerted effort of our athletes, coaches and many other officials, we have made it back.'

The Sports Institute provides comprehensive support to help elite programmes reach the highest standard.

These include coaching, facilities, local and overseas training, sports science and sports medicine, fitness and conditioning as well as financial, education and personal support to the athletes.

An elite training grant offers athletes up to HK$32,000 per month, free room and board at the institute's Fo Tan training centre and an overseas training allowance.

Each sport programme can have an annual budget of HK$4 million to HK$8 million depending on size and number of athletes. They can also hire a top-class head coach and other assistant coaches.

Cheung said the association would sit down with the Sports Institute once the move had been confirmed and work out their plans for the next couple of years.

'With the support of the institute, we can target the highest level like the Asian Games and other major competitions,' she said. 'We can get a head coach, expand the size of our elite squad and ask more gymnasts to take up full-time training to become competitive. We hope to work out the details with the institute soon.'

The government's Sports Commission will be meeting next month to ratify the review results before announcing the elite programmes for the 2011-2015 funding cycle.

The existing 14 elite sports will remain, including triathlon, which secured its status after Andrew Wright's seventh-place showing in the men's event at the Asian Games.

The other elite programmes are athletics, badminton, cycling, fencing, karate, table tennis, rowing, squash, tenpin bowling, snooker, swimming, windsurfing and wushu.

Gymnastics returns following successful results by two of its top athletes, Shek Wai-hung and Angel Wong Hiu-ying.

Shek came eighth in the men's individual all-round out of 24 athletes at the Guangzhou Games, while Wong snatched third place in the women's vault in two World Cup events. With the help of two excellent results from junior athletes, gymnastics passed the nine-point benchmark.

At present, the gymnastics association works with a small elite squad of 20 athletes, but only Shek and Wong train full time.