Kiteboarders turn down support from wealthier windsurfer 'brothers'
The new Olympic discipline of kiteboarding has refused the hand of friendship from its "big brother", windsurfing, even though the latter enjoys all the financial support.
Kiteboarding will controversially replace windsurfing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio but it is struggling to get public funding after talks to merge the two sailing classes broke down.
Windsurfing is on the elite programme at the Sports Institute, has produced Hong Kong's only Olympic gold medallist and enjoys all the financial support from the government.
Kiteboarding has yet to clear its memorandum and articles with the Hong Kong Sailing Federation to become a recognised body to run the class.
"Even if we have been recognised by the sailing federation, we cannot obtain public funding immediately because we are still far from producing the required results as an elite programme," said Jay Chau Hong-wai, vice-president of the fledgling Hong Kong Kiteboarding Federation.
Chau said they had received offers from the Windsurfing Association of Hong Kong to put the class under its "big brother", which they had refused.
"We know this is the fastest way to secure financial support but we will become one of the classes under windsurfing, just like RSX, IMCO or techno if we accept their plan," he said.
"We don't think this is practical as windsurfing and kiteboarding are two different classes independent of each other. Instead, we have proposed changing windsurfing's name to boardsailing so it can accommodate both classes on an equal status.
"I understand this may be difficult for them as they have been established for many years and the move will require the endorsement from their members. But this reflects the reality as we are now the Olympic class."
It is understood the Windsurfing Association was not prepared to change its name as it can still enjoy its elite status as a sailing class to compete at the Asian Games.
"Our status at the Sports Institute will not be affected because, as far as we understand, the Asian Sailing Federation has reached an agreement with the Olympic Council of Asia to keep windsurfing as an Asian Games medal sport, regardless of what happens in the Olympics," said Dennis Chau Wai-keung, executive director of the Windsurfing Association.
However, Jay Chau said many windsurfers are set to switch to kiteboarding since the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) dropped the bombshell in May when voting to replace windsurfing with kiteboarding for the 2016 Olympics.
Windsurfing federations have railed against the decision and the ISAF will face a challenge at its annual conference in Dublin in November.
"There are around 100 kiteboarders in Hong Kong, but none of them is training on a full-time basis to reach the highest standard of the Olympic level," said retired windsurfer Ho Chi-ho, who is also a founding member of the kiteboarding federation .
"We have to spend a lot of money on equipment, overseas training and competitions in the next couple of years in order to produce athletes that are competitive at the Brazil Games. If there is no public funding, our plans may be affected and we have to look for other options such as support from the commercial field."