More funding urged to help more Hong Kong athletes make the Olympics

With the possibility of elite programmes at the Sports Institute facing cuts, cycling chief Leung Hung-tak says the overall standard should be lifted across all codes to increase the chance of winning medals at the Games

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 10:56pm

A leading sports official has pleaded for more resources to increase the prospect of more Hong Kong athletes qualifying for the next Olympic Games, even as elite programmes face possible funding reductions.

Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak was reacting to a television interview last week in which Rio Olympics chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong said the number of elite programmes at the Sports Institute might have to be cut if additional funding is not forthcoming.

The Sports Institute has warned its income is likely to drop as projected revenue from the HK$7 billion Elite Athletes Development Fund is shrinking.

Having sent six riders to Rio this summer, Leung said his organisation would be aiming to send a larger group to Tokyo in four years.

“An Olympic medal is important but not the most important thing,” he said. “We should aim at a larger squad for the Games. Of course, we would be very happy if one of our cyclists or even more than one of them win a medal in Tokyo, just as Sarah Lee Wai-sze did in London four years ago, but this is not going to be easy.

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“We need to lift the overall standard of the sport so more and more athletes can qualify for the Olympics and then we can start talking about winning medals.

“Reaching the Olympic Games is a big honour for an individual athlete and a bigger representation in the Games would also reflect the overall strength of an individual team. This is pivotal as we embark on our road to Tokyo.”

Leung, an Olympian at both the 1984 and 1988 Games, said they would target both the men’s and women’s track pursuit teams to make it to the Tokyo Games, while the women’s road race and men’s individual time trial could also be a focus.

Last week, Fok said more resources would be needed to raise the performances of athletes after they failed to win a medal in Rio.

He said if there was no additional funding, the number of elite programmes at the Sports Institute would have to be reviewed with a view to more efficient use of resources.

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Institute administrators are keen to sit down with the government to establish a long-term funding policy. There are 17 tier A programmes at the institute with four of them – cycling, badminton, table tennis and windsurfing – having received the biggest funding support as potential medal producers at the Rio Games.

Leung insisted their medal chances should not be strengthened at the expense of other sports.

“There are three podium positions and only the best of the best can reach that at the Olympic Games,” he said.

“It is not healthy if we only take care of sports with a medal potential. Other sports such as swimming and fencing have also returned with outstanding results from Rio and their athletes should also be given the same level of support to make it to the Olympic Games.”

Hong Kong sent 38 athletes to Rio, but none of them returned with a medal, including cyclist Lee, who won a bronze medal in the women’s keirin at the 2012 London Games.