Performances of HK's homegrown talent prove that more should be done to encourage local youngsters to take up a career in sport Hong Kong's established stars struck gold at the games with an unprecedented haul of medals, but a new crew of future heroes has also emerged. While no one ever doubted the ability of most of the gold medallists - cyclist Wong Kam-po, table tennis duo Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak, shuttler Wang Chen and bodybuilder Chan Yun-to - to distinguish themselves, the likes of Cheung King-wai, Yip Pui-yin, Chan King-yin, Chan Wai-kei and Lee Ka-man will certainly become household names after their achievements in Doha. Against the cream of Asia, this group of Hong Kong-born sports stars have already proved they can hold their own at the highest level of competition, although it may be too soon to talk about a medal for them at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It also proves that Hong Kong sports, despite a small talent pool, are still able to produce athletes capable of beating anyone in the region. However, the emerging darlings of Doha are only half the story. With more and more sports seeking a short-cut to success through the importation of talent, many Hong Kong youngsters with potential have been deprived of the opportunity to excel. Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, however, has full confidence in locally born athletes, with cycling star Wong as their role model. 'He is a leading example for Hong Kong athletes,' said Fok. 'But we cannot be content with just one Wong kam-po. We need to produce more athletes who are competitive at elite level.' The sports chief said the results in Doha had proved athletes needed full-time training before they could stand on the medals podium. But Fok was also quick to warn that sports associations could not do this on their own. 'While financial resources, which have never been adequate, remain the key to success in sport, society has to also make adjustments to provide the best environment for full-time athletes,' Fok said. 'For instance, the education system and the labour market also need to ensure that athletes need not worry about their future after they retire from competitive sport.' Fok cited the case of shuttler Yip, who pulled off a series of surprising wins in Doha to take a silver medal in the women' singles. 'When she decided to quit school to take up full-time training in badminton, her parents initially stopped her because they were worried about her future in sport,' he said. 'We need to change the attitude of parents by telling them there is a bright future in sport in Hong Kong. Only then will young people start coming into the system.' Indeed, a lack of youngsters with true potential committing to full-time training is a major reason why many sports have to turn to the mainland, where tens of thousands of young people are ready to endure long hours of training to obtain a secure future through sport. The associations which turn to the mainland to find stars cannot be blamed, though, especially when you consider that all the funding for elite development relies completely on results in the international and regional arenas. This is evident in the case of athletics and tennis. Having been given a two-year grace period until the Doha Games to meet the requirements for elite support at the Sports Institute, the two sports still failed to make the grade and face being axed from the programme in April. The government needs to work out a comprehensive sports policy which involves all sectors of the community so that athletes can be identified and nurtured to compete in the best possible environment and be assured of a reasonably secure future. The youth of Hong Kong deserve the opportunity to excel in sport if they have the potential, or we may never see anyone follow in the footsteps of Yip, Cheung, Chan and Lee.