Ruling body rejects windsurfing's attempt to return to Olympics

Ruling body rejects discipline's latest effort to return to the Games and its last hope is for a new leader to be elected to reopen the case

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 November, 2012, 4:09am

Windsurfing is clinging to a final, slim chance of returning to the Olympic Games despite a fresh setback appearing to drive a nail in its coffin.

At the International Sailing Federation's annual conference in Dublin, Ireland, windsurfing fell three votes short of the 75 per cent majority it needed to reopen the debate on the initial decision to replace the discipline with kiteboarding from 2016.

Now Hong Kong's windsurfers are clutching at one last straw: that Australian David Kellett is elected president of the organisation today. One of three candidates, he has apparently pledged to reopen the case if elected.

Windsurfing and kiteboarding had agreed to a compromise plan that would have seen both disciplines compete in Rio, but needed a 75 per cent majority of council members to agree to the motion to reopen the debate on the controversial decision taken in May. Twenty-six members were in favour, with 12 against.

As a result, kiteboarding seems certain to be in the Olympics for the first time with men's and women's individual races in Brazil.

"The events and equipment as approved in May 2012 remain for Rio 2016," the ISAF said in a statement. But Hong Kong's windsurfing chiefs still believe there is hope. Hong Kong's only Olympic gold medal was won in windsurfing, by Lee Lai Shan in 1996.

"We are clearly disappointed by the result," said Dennis Chau Wai-keung, executive director of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association. "We were expecting a more positive outcome after the compromise was reached between the two classes, but in the end we just needed three more votes to achieve the 75 per cent majority.

"But clearly there is more support for windsurfing compared to the mid-year meeting [where the initial decision was taken] and we will not give up hope as there is still another chance with the election of the new council coming up - they can revoke any decision made by the previous council."

According to Chau, Kellett promised to reopen the case if he was elected today. "We hope he can win to revitalise our hopes. That will be our last chance."

In its mid-year meeting, the council decided to replace windsurfing with kiteboarding as one of the classes for the next Olympic Games by 19 votes to 17.

The new ruling has already had a far-reaching impact as windsurfers consider their future without the Olympic Games as their target. Many are considering switching to kiteboarding.

Leading women's windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man, who made her Olympic debut in London this summer, said she would consider dropping her full-time training next year and getting back to her studies at the University of Hong Kong if windsurfing is out for the 2016 Games.

A compromise, where windsurfing would compete in a mixed men's and women's event under one single competition, while kiteboarding would compete in another event, had been agreed, but that plan now appears to be abandoned

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Open finishes in Cheung Chau today with two races left, but Chan has already clinched the international RSX title after winning all eight races so far.

Another Hong Kong team member, Sonia Lo Sin-lam, is second with 17 penalty points followed by Ngai Wai-yan (18 points).

In the men's international RSX, Andy Leung Ho-tsun is leading with nine penalty points after eight races, while Michael Cheng Chun-leung is second with 13, followed by Gabriel Brettell's 21.