Sports Development Board (SDB) chief Andrew Ma has hit back at suggestions Hong Kong may not be able to repeat their success at the recent Asian Games, saying they had four years to prepare for the next Games in Pusan - and Hong Kong would rise to the challenge again. Ma was responding to suggestions made yesterday by former Hong Kong Sports Institute director Dennis Whitby, who said unless windsurfing queen Lee Lai-shan, wushu champion Ng Siu-ching - both gold medallists in Bangkok - and top female rower Fenella Ng, who won two silvers in Bangkok, delayed their retirement plans, Hong Kong would probably not repeat its Bangkok success. The SDB (a government-backed body which provides funding to national sports associations and is accountable for sporting excellence) absorbed the Sports Institute (the elite training centre in Sha Tin) in April. Whitby suggested that the Sports Institute was operating as an increasingly commercial organisation; that the current SDB leadership lacks experience and expertise in the area of elite athlete development and that the SDB has consistently failed to develop a 'feeder system' into the Institute. The HKSI elite training programme was replaced by the SDB training programme in April. Whitby, who left the Sports Institute in July and was replaced by Dr Chung Pak-kwong, also said the elite athlete development system that the now-defunct Jubilee Sports Centre (JSC) and Sports Institute took 16 years to develop can be 'expected to slowly grind to a halt'. 'The successes of 1995-98 will seem like a dream. It will take years to recover,' said Whitby. 'It's the end of the golden era, not the start of it. If we are not careful, we will be back to the level we were eight years ago. People are blind to this. Everyone is up with these medals, but what happens after this?' he said. Ma admitted that there may be problems, but said: 'The reality is that the top athletes, they move on and somebody else will take over to take the slack and show leadership. 'Chai Po-wa was the best table tennis player in Hong Kong. She was indisposed due to pregnancy and Chan Tan-lui raised her game a notch and together with a 16-year-old partner, Song Ah-sim, won a silver medal in doubles. 'You have to realise that the baton has to be passed to the next people in line. 'We must fight and face up to the task at hand. We just have to work harder if there is no talent readily available. We'll just have to develop it.' Ma declared Hong Kong's success in Bangkok was unprecedented and that it brought a degree of success to their elite programme, which deserved credit. 'We have a solid development programme for both seniors and juniors. We have a very strong junior programme underneath as borne out by the medals we have been winning. The athletes who have done well in Bangkok will act as role models while developing public enthusiasm for their sports.' Ma said while it is true that the Institute has become more commercial with plans to build a golf driving range, he said there was a need to make up for some of the shortfall since the Institute was no longer funded by the Jockey Club.