Save Our Sailing: Tong Yui-shing once again on mission to rescue status at Hong Kong Sports Institute
Previously, it was his performances as an athlete that helped keep them afloat, this time his role is as president of the federation
Newly elected sailing chief Tong Yui-shing faces the biggest challenge of his 40-year sporting career, with the veteran taking on the task of trying to save the sport for a second time.
At the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, a 55-year-old Tong won a bronze medal in the hobie 16 with his partner Tong Kit-fong , a result that helped the sport score sufficient points to gain tier A status at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
But after sailing failed to meet the review requirements over the past two years, Tong is again needed to lead his sport out of troubled waters – but this time as president of the Hong Kong Sailing Federation.
“This is a big challenge, even bigger than the one I did it for sailing at the 2014 Asiad,” said Tong, who was elected for the top post last month. “As the president, I must take up the responsibility for the entire sport even though I know it is very difficult.
“I do not want to blame people for what has been done over the past two years, but my target is very clear as we must win a medal at the next Asian Games in Indonesia or our sport will be kicked out the door.”
To focus on his new role, Tong has terminated his contract as a scholarship athlete with the Sports Institute.
“My contract with the Institute is up in March but since I will have to deal with a lot of athlete support in future as the association head, I better call it a day for my athlete’s career as it may lead to conflict of interest,” said Tong, who has been on the programme for four years.
The Sports Institute support cycle is on a four-year basis, with a review after the first two years. All tier A sports must reach a nine-point benchmark through their international results and on top of that, they also must qualify for the Olympic Games or win a medal at the Asian Games or World Championships. Those sports that fail to achieve the target will be given a two-year grace period from 2017.
Sailing, along with tennis, gymnastics, karate and rugby, failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics nor were they able to win a medal at their respective World Championships and were all given the grace period.
With Tong’s hobie 16 no longer a programme on the Asian Games, his hopes will hinge on 470’s Tse Sui-lun and Chik Ho-yin, the 2014 Asian Championships silver medallists and junior Gregor Duncan, an optimist sailor, to get results in Indonesia.
Tong will also bank on the expertise of their new head coach Steven Lovegrove, the former men’s 470 coach of the British Sailing Team, who will start this week.
“We will sit down with the new head coach and state clearly of what the targets are,” he said. “Our 470 class has made little improvement over the last two years and hopefully Lovegrove can make a difference with his expertise and experience.”
Tong will also have to solve the nationality problem for Duncan because he doesn’t have a Hong Kong passport and therefore is not eligible for the Asian Games. In addition, the Nacra 17 pair of Chan Yu-ting and Fung Tat-choi, who finished a creditable fifth in the Sail Melbourne last month, want to join the Sports Institute scholarship programme for more financial support rather than stay in the Individual Athlete Support Scheme. Nacra 17 is an Olympic programme but not on the Asian Games medal list.