Hong Kong Sports Institute chiefs defend coaches
More time needed for results, Sports Institute officials say - but will reassess after Rio 2016, and expect success at Asian competitions
Hong Kong's elite coaches will be given four more years to produce results, despite returning with only one bronze medal at the London Olympics.
Sports Institute chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing and chief executive Dr Trisha Leahy both came out strongly in support of the coaching system yesterday but said it would be reassessed if results were not forthcoming in Rio 2016.
"It is still too early to start asking questions from our coaches," Leahy said. "We have to give them at least two four-year cycles. But if we are not producing results after the 2016 Olympics then I think we will have to reassess and look at the possibility that something is wrong with the system."
The clock will only start running once the entire redevelopment of the Fo Tan Sports Institute is finished early next year. The government has spent HK$1.8 billion in upgrading the facilities after the elite academy was closed down due to the equestrian events being staged for the Beijing Olympics. The government also set up a HK$7 billion Elite Athletes Development Fund last year, with the benefits set to fully kick in only next year. "The last four years have been disruptive [for the elite athletes and coaching community] and they have undergone a tough journey," Tong said. "We have just started our journey and we need more time."
Tong and Leahy refused to look at Britain as an example of accountability - Charles van Commenee stepped down from his post as head coach of UK Athletics after the British track team failed to meet his medals target at the London Games.
"Hong Kong cannot be compared to the UK. Our elite athlete population is very small in comparison to the UK," Leahy said. "We need to grow our base first to at least 500 athletes before we can start comparing. Another factor is that most of our athletes are still part-timers: 80 per cent of them still go to school or university and juggle training with studies.
"That is not to say our coaches have an easy ride. They have to undergo performance appraisals every year and we have a benchmark they have to meet."
That benchmark is mostly success at the Asian Games and Asian Championships, but Leahy said performances at Olympics and World Championships also mattered for report cards.
One of the longest-serving coaches, Shen Jinkang, hinted he might stay on well after his retirement age of 60 after Sarah Lee Wai-sze won a bronze medal in the women's keirin in London.
"I would hope to be around to bring my athletes to the top of the platform," Shen said at the Hang Seng Athletic Incentive Awards Scheme presentation ceremony, where HK$1.8 million was dished out to Olympics athletes.
"We are all over the moon with winning that medal," said Tong. "We are a small place and we have taken a long time to get where we are. The government has given us everything now and now we are starting from a good base."
The clear winner at the presentation was Lee, who received a cheque for HK$750,000.
Another HK$700,000 went to athletes in badminton and table tennis who finished in the top eight, including the men's table tennis team of Jiang Tianyi, Leung Chu-yan and Tang Peng, who lost in the bronze medal play-off to Germany. All 42 athletes at the London Games received a gold ingot, with a combined value of HK$350,000.