Velodrome 'gateway to Olympic gold'
Coach Shen Jinkang praises government for delivering on promise of top-class indoor facility and promises results to suit
Hong Kong can set its sights on an Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro with the opening of a new velodrome in Tseung Kwan O next year, head cycling coach Shen Jinkang predicted yesterday.
The facility, which is costing taxpayers HK$600 million, is expected to open in the second half of 2013 with a 250-metre, state-of-the-art track and 2,000 seats for spectators. Running costs for the complex are estimated at HK$30 million a year. Shen was joined by track riders (London Olympic Games bronze medallist Sarah Lee Wai-sze and 2006 Doha Asian Games gold medallist Cheung King-wai) and government officials at the venue's commencement ceremony yesterday.
"Given that Lee won a medal at the Olympics this summer despite having to train on the mainland, this great facility should improve our chances of even more success in Rio in 2016," said Shen. "We have been using facilities on the mainland for so many years ... now we have our own training base, we can aim higher.
"This is also one of the reasons that I have decided to remain the coach. When I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1994, I would have never thought of a world-class velodrome for the team. It is a dream come true and it would be a pity if I didn't get to use it and train my athletes."
Shen had considered retirement after leading Lee to the keirin Olympic bronze medal in August, but will now stay as head cycling coach at the Sports Institute for another Olympic cycle, despite reaching the retirement age of 60 next year. Shen rushed back from Shanghai to Hong Kong yesterday after attending a Chinese ritual in memory of his father, who passed away two weeks ago.
"In the eyes of the public this is just a track cycling venue, but for a professional coach it is linked with results at the highest level and the base for committed riders aspiring for success," he said.
Shen hoped the velodrome would be the building block for a strong track cycling team with great depth. "When we train on the mainland, we can only use the track and are without other sports science support which is instrumental in the discipline. We won't have the same problems at the Tseung Kwan O venue as it will be equipped with all the support services we need," he said.
"The athletes can be very focused in training as they don't need to spend time on travelling between here and the mainland."
The velodrome has a special meaning for Cheung as it was his gold medal in the points race at the 2006 Asian Games that helped push the government to build the venue.
"We have been waiting to see a velodrome for many years," he said. "The government has kept its promise and the facility will play an important role for the sport in future."
Lee said the facility would eliminate a lot of inconvenience caused by the travelling to Guangzhou, where the team have been training for the past two years.
"People may think Hong Kong and Guangzhou are very close but I still spend six hours travelling between the two places each time," she said. "It would much better if I could use the six hours for training instead."
Meanwhile, veteran Wong Kam-po would quit competitive cycling after the Tour of Taihu this week, Shen said. "He has to move on and get prepared to become a coach. I will give him a six-week break after the tour so he can enjoy a holiday before getting into the business of coaching," Shen said.
Choi Ki-ho remains third in the general classification of the tour, which has three more stages to go in Jiangsu province.