Compromise in the air for return of windsurfing to Olympics
World governing body softens its stance, raising hopes windsurfing will be retained for Rio Games alongside kiteboarding
A compromise could mean kiteboarding and the sport it replaced, windsurfing, will both appear at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a leading Hong Kong sailing official said.
Hong Kong Windsurfing Association executive director Dennis Chau Wai-keung said a number of options were being explored to keep at least one Olympic class for windsurfing.
His hopes have been raised after the International Sailing Federation (Isaf) executive committee said it was prepared to change a part of the regulations at its meeting next month regarding the inclusion of men's and women's kiteboarding at the 2016 Rio Games.
"This is a good sign for us because the executive committee has softened its stance and is now willing to discuss it," said Chau. "Whether they want to keep windsurfing in either men's or women's or make it a mixed event for both genders, it seems to me the two classes are looking for a compromise."
Submissions from 26 sailing federations, including Hong Kong, said the Isaf had sacrificed one of the most popular events in terms of participation and global spread when it dropped windsurfing at its mid-year meeting in May.
They also said kiteboarding was a new and fascinating discipline but it had very little participation by women in racing at the world championships (seven women in 2009, eight women in 2010).
The compromise options include keeping the men's kiteboarding, but scrapping the women's competition to make way for the return of a mixed RSX (men and women) windsurfing event.
"This is a temporary solution, I would say, as both kiteboarding and windsurfing can compete in Rio but the issue will not finish there and I can foresee a lot more power struggles between the two classes in future," Chau said.
"Although there are many submissions from individual sailing federations around the world to appeal for reinstating windsurfing into the 2016 Games, the executive committee can still ignore them and keep the decision it made in May as final."
However, a senior official from the Hong Kong Kiteboarding Federation said all these options were considered when the Isaf opted for kiteboarding.
"I have no idea why these topics will be discussed again," he said. "Kiteboarding has been going for less than 20 years and of course we don't have the large participation base like windsurfing.
"Windsurfing is the most popular among all sailing classes and we would be very happy if both classes were selected for the Olympic Games. But this is up to Isaf, they have to make a decision."
The official said kiteboarding had already replaced windsurfing at the Sail Melbourne event in December, which proved they were gaining more and more international recognition.
"I know many windsurfers in Hong Kong are prepared to shift to our discipline, including those at the very top level," he said. "If our Olympic status is confirmed, we can have a more healthy development and attract more potential boarders."
The 2012 Olympic sailing competition featured 380 athletes competing across 10 classes, including the men's and women's windsurfing.
Hong Kong's Andy Leung Ho-tsun and Hayley Chan Hei-man finished 13th and 12th respectively, the best results across all Asian participants.