Hong Kong hope Olympic ruling will be in their favour

High-level meeting in Dublin will decide whether windsurfing will retain its Games status, thereby raising local medal hopes for Rio 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 3:20am

A compromise agreement where windsurfing and its upstart rival kiteboarding will share the Olympic stage at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 could raise Hong Kong's medal hopes - if a deal is hammered out by sailing chiefs.

The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) is meeting in Dublin and will decide if windsurfing will be reinstated as an Olympic class and in what format.

According to a proposal made to the federation's events committee, both classes will be allowed to enter a mixed event of two people in Rio.

At its mid-year meeting in May, the ISAF council surprisingly dropped windsurfing, which had men's and women's events at the London Games, from the 2016 Games programme for kiteboarding.

"We had a pretty strong performance in London in both the men's and women's events," said Hong Kong Windsurfing Association president Cowen Chiu, who returned from Dublin yesterday. "If that happens [one mixed event for windsurfing and kiteboarding each], we may gain some sort of advantage over many of the countries who are strong in only one gender.

"But this is not an ideal situation as there will be only one medal for windsurfing. In the long run, we will continue to fight for two Olympic windsurfing events as before."

Chiu, who is also a member of the ISAF's windsurfing and kiteboarding committee, said there had been strong opposition from the national authorities regarding the mid-year decision.

He cautioned this was only a recommendation and the final decision was still in the council's hands. "There is no guarantee yet as we still have to wait for the council to meet in the next couple of days," he said.

Hong Kong's Andy Leung Ho-tsun and Hayley Chan Hei-man finished 13th in the men's RSX and 12th in the women's RSX respectively in London, which was also the best among all Asian competitors.

The duo compete in the Hong Kong Open starting at Cheung Chau's East Bay today, but anxiously await the Dublin decision.

"The meeting is very important as it will affect my sporting career," said Leung. "My target is the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon where windsurfing will still be on the roster. But beyond that, I don't know what will happen. I just hope the result will be in favour of windsurfing."

Chan, who recently spent 10 days in Auckland learning the basic skills of kiteboarding under former Olympic champion Bruce Kendall, said she still preferred windsurfing.

"I have been training and competing in the sport for more than 10 years and have a great passion for it," said Chan. "I still hope to see two windsurfing events for the next Olympic Games as before, but this is out of my control. I am also worried that if only kiteboarding is chosen for the Olympic Games, there will be a lack of funding for preparation leading to up the Rio Games."

According to the proposal, the mixed event for the Olympic Games could be a combination of the results of the individual men's and women's events or in the form of a relay race between men and women's windsurfers. But the number of participating countries will be reduced to 16 teams of 32 sailors to meet the athletes quota set by the International Olympic Committee. There were 38 boardsailors in the men's RSX at the London Games and 26 in the women's.

Meanwhile, the four-day Hong Kong Open will feature boardsailors from China, Thailand, the United States and the hosts competing in five events.