A top sports official has hit out at the prospect of Hong Kong recruiting athletes from the mainland to achieve international success after the territory reverts to Chinese sovereignty. Hong Kong Sports Institute director Dr Dennis Whitby said he was well aware that some national sports associations have relied on Chinese athletes in the past and he wants this practice to stop. With only 28 days left before the handover, Dr Whitby said he hoped Hong Kong would not rely on athletes from the mainland as they have done in the past. 'I don't want to see that. I don't accept that. We're [the Hong Kong Sports Institute] not going to recruit athletes from China and I have told all our head coaches at the Institute not to do this,' said Dr Whitby. 'We have six million people and we should be able to compete with success. Look at the small countries around the world like Mongolia, Kazakhstan and New Zealand. These countries have won more medals than us per capita. I know Hong Kong is different socially but we should still go out there and optimise our potential.' Dr Whitby wants the territory to develop 'home-grown' athletes rather than rely on athletes from the mainland who have achieved international success for Hong Kong in sports like table tennis and, to a certain extent, wushu and badminton. 'We have to look at our system and see whether we are producing athletes. We have to ask ourselves whether we are identifying talent and if we can develop it . . . and do we have the structure to achieve this. If we are not developing athletes, then the system is not working,' said Dr Whitby. The Institute chief said it was important to develop athletes who fall in the 'pre-elite' category, stating that it takes between eight to 10 years to develop a top-class athlete. He added: 'We got to put more pressure on the system. If we have to go out recruiting athletes from the mainland, then something is not working with our system.' Dr Whitby said Lee Lai-shan's gold medal at last year's Atlanta Olympic was misleading as the public might be led to believe that the territory was finally able to produce a top-class athlete. 'Lee Lai-shan's win was great but it was misleading to the public. It was a case of an athlete and coach working together at the right time and not so much that Hong Kong was able to produce a gold medallist,' he said. Dr Whitby was speaking at a prize-giving ceremony to reward Hong Kong athletes who did well at the recent East Asian Games in Pusan. The East Asian Games Incentive Award Scheme was designed to recognise local athletes' achievements through financial incentives. Five athletes from judo, track and field, and wushu shared $55,000. Hong Kong athletes won one gold, two silvers and two bronze medals in Pusan. Wushu exponent Ng Siu-ching received a cheque for $25,000 for winning gold in the women's nanquan. Lo Ng-ching, another wushu expert, collected $10,000 while teammate Leung Yat-ho collected $5,000 for his bronze in the men's nanquan. Track and field athlete Chan Sau-ying won $10,000 for her silver in the women's 100 metres hurdles while judo player Chan Mei-ling collected $5,000 for her bronze in the women's 52-kilogram category. Hong Kong athletes who competed in the demonstration sports in Pusan were also recognised. Local athletes won three silvers (rowing pairs) and two bronzes (rowing and tenpin bowling) in this category. The five medallists included rowers Chau Fung-yau, Chiang Wing-hung, Florence Lai, Lo Sing-yan and Fenella Ng, and tenpin bowler Chiang Kwok-fai. The Sports Development Board (SDB) yesterday recognised their achievements by presenting them with special trophies. Meanwhile, SDB chairman John Hung said in his opening speech at the prize presentation that local athletes and coaches must 'deliver the goods' before the Government can subvent higher sums of money. He said it was up to the athletes and coaches to perform if the money that is given to them by the Government doesn't go to waste.