New coach wants fresh approach to training
Table tennis chief warns HK will slip further behind without making big changes
New Hong Kong head table tennis coach Chan Kong-wah wants to revamp the squad training system to meet the challenges ahead.
Chan, who took up the post last week, said his biggest task would be the transition to a new generation of players to fill the gap left by an ageing squad and this could be made easier if the Sports Institute could also perform the role of a normal school.
"We plan to expand the junior squad, starting with players as young as 10," said Chan, who replaced mainlander Hui Jun as head coach.
"But this is not going to be easy as we need to convince parents to allow their children to attend training at the Sports Institute. This is difficult for children after a long day at school.
"If the Sports Institute can also be an education institute, it will be easier for us to attract quality, young players. We hope that this can happen soon."
Japan and Taiwan had set up sports schools to help strengthen their junior programmes, Chan said, and they were now reaping the benefits, adding that China had followed this model for decades.
"Taiwan won the men's doubles at the recent world championships, while Japan have produced players as young as 13 who are competing on the world circuit," he said. "We must find ways to strengthen our feeder system or we will fall further behind these and other countries."
Chan will lead a mixed squad of young and experienced players to Busan, South Korea, today for the Asian championships where they will face stiff competition from some of the world's best from China, Japan and South Korea.
"This will be a good opportunity for the youngsters to learn what it's like competing on the big stage; at this time the results are secondary," he said.
Spearheading the women's team is Jiang Huajun, who will be assisted by youngsters Lee Ho-ching, Guan Mengyuan, To Hoi-kam and Lee Ching-wan. Jiang will be used sparingly as she has already played 50 matches this year.
The men's squad features Jiang Tianyi, Tang Peng, Cheung Yuk, Wong Chun-ting and Chiu Chung-hei.
Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching, who won the men's doubles silver medal for Hong Kong at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, will be the men's and women's coaches respectively under the new structure.