HK Paralympians call for more resources to foster future stars

After winning 12 medals in London, athletes say they need better facilities, more coaches

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 9:59am

Amid the triumphant return yesterday of the Hong Kong Paralympics team from the London Games, a sporting official called for more resources to nurture the city's talented disabled athletes.

The 28-member team took three golds, three silvers and six bronze medals, topping their previous haul in 2008 of 11, including five golds.

They ranked 34th in the overall tally, bringing their total medal count to 108 since Hong Kong started taking part in 1972. And they accomplished this despite limited resources.

"Paralympic sports in Hong Kong are struggling with inadequate training sites," said Martin Lam, general secretary of the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee and Sports Association for the Physically Disabled.

"For example, there are no … designated venues for training, so the athletes have to compete with the public for training venues."

The Paralympians who play boccia, a wheelchair-based ball sport, would like to train up to seven times a week, but they can only manage three sessions because of limited space.

"I think the government should dedicate more resources, both in terms of money and manpower, to shore up disabled athletes," said wheelchair fencing star Yu Chui-yee.

The 28-year-old won two golds in the women's individual foil and épée, and one bronze in women's team épée.

"More money would mean we could get more chances to participate in overseas competitions, through which we can gain more experience," she said.

Lam said other Asian teams like Malaysia and Thailand had sufficient venues.

Hong Kong's Paralympians also lack enough coaches, with only the wheelchair-fencing and table-tennis teams having full-time trainers.

Lam said that after the Paralympics in 2008, Hong Kong focused on grooming a new batch of athletes. But there was no coaching development programme for Paralympic sports.

"Other countries are devoting more resources to Paralympic events," Lam said.

"If Hong Kong fails to address these problems, we will surely lose our competitiveness."