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Rio Paralympics 2016

We need more government support to train full-time, says HK Paralympics star Alison Yu

Wheelchair athlete returns from the Rio Games calling for a new funding category to be set up for disabled athletes so they can aim for more glory at the next Games in Tokyo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 3:50pm

Seven-time Paralympics gold medallist Alison Yu Chui-yee has appealed to the government to provide more financial support for disabled athletes so they can aim for more glory at the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Wheelchair fencer Yu, one of the most successful Hong Kong Paralympians ever and a silver medallist in the women’s individual foil (category A) in Rio, urged the government to set up a new funding category for full-time disabled athletes.

Yu returned to Hong Kong on Wednesday as part of a 24-member Hong Kong squad who came away with two gold, two silver and two bronze medals from Rio, the worst result for Hong Kong at a Paralympics in terms of gold medal count and total medal tally since the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

“I think its time to consider full-time financial support for disabled athletes so that we can improve our results at the Tokyo Paralympics,” said Yu, who failed to win a gold medal for the first time since making her Paralympics debut at 2004 Athens, where she clinched four gold medals.

“What we have discovered in Rio while we were there is that many disabled athletes are now training full time. These athletes not only come from China but from European countries.

“If we want to stay competitive against our counterparts, we have to follow the same trend and the prerequisite is more financial backing.”

All of Hong Kong’s disabled athletes either work full-time to earn a living or are students. They receive limited financial support from the Sports Institute as elite disabled athletes under the Sports Aid Grant for Athletes with Disabilities (SAGD).

Yu, a graduate of the Chinese University, receives HK$6,000 under the highest level of support of the scheme. She also receives another HK$2,000 allowance from the Social Welfare Department.

“These days, eight thousand dollars is hardly enough to committing to full-time training and the authorities have to consider a new support scheme to lure more disabled athletes to train full-time,” she said.

In comparison, top Hong Kong athletes such as Sarah Lee Wai-sze receives around HK$30,000 from the Elite Training Grant under the Sports Institute.

The head of the Hong Kong delegation, Ng Chak-lin, said the city’s results from Rio were not encouraging even though competition in Rio was at “an extremely high level”.

“We did know before the Games that it would be very tough as many European nations are investing a lot more on their athletes,” he said.

"Our athletes are training on a part-time basis and their preparation lagged far behind many Europeans and mainland athletes."