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Hong Kong’s Olympic silver-medallist Siobhan Haughey speaks at an event in a mall in Hong Kong on August 20. Haughey has spoken of how she wanted to quit swimming when she was in Primary Six but her mother urged her on. Photo: AFP

Letters | Why Hong Kong’s Olympics success is not a ‘black swan’ event

  • Readers discuss the enablers of Hong Kong’s Olympic success, as reflected in the experience of its medallists, and why the financial reward scheme is unfair to Paralympians
After Hong Kong’s success at the Tokyo Olympics, where our athletes won an unprecedented six medals, many experts have been trying to determine the factors behind the achievement.
Money is certainly one of them. Most participants, including all the medallists, trained at the government-funded Hong Kong Sports Institute. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that funding there rose from HK$520 million in 2017-18 to HK$737 million in 2021.
But if money were the only factor, it would be difficult to explain why Jamaica, a developing nation, bagged nine medals, including four gold, in Tokyo.

So, what are the other factors that influence Olympics success? Some research has argued that if the effective participating population is increased through enabling social conditions, the probability of Olympic success is higher.


Hong Kong Olympic athletes welcomed back in homecoming parade

Hong Kong Olympic athletes welcomed back in homecoming parade

Other than funding, some of these enablers are better public health policies, school support, educated or sports-enthusiastic parents, choosing the right sport and a highly urbanised environment.

Increased life expectancy, which reflects effective implementation of health policies, plays an important role. At 82.7 years for men and 88.1 years for women, Hong Kong has one of the highest life expectancies globally, owing to people’s access to good health care and the promotion of healthy living.
That school support in sports is another enabler is anecdotally evident in the success of Sarah Lee Wai-sze, bronze-medallist in cycling. Born to an impoverished family, Lee’s athletic prowess led to her school recommending her to the Sports Institute when she was in Form Three.
Parents’ education and enthusiasm for sports is an X-factor. Fencing gold-medallist Edgar Cheung Ka-long’s parents played national league basketball. Siobhan Haughey, double-silver-medallist in swimming, wanted to quit when she was in Primary Six but her mother urged her on and she ultimately fell in love with the sport. Table-tennis bronze-medallist Minnie Soo is the daughter of a former player.
Choosing the right sport also helps to boost the medal tally. Inspired by movie stars like Bruce Lee, the city always had a culture of martial arts. This has perhaps borne fruit, when, in karate’s inaugural Olympics, Grace Lau won bronze.

Hong Kong has the one of the densest urban area in the high-income world, which correlates to a high degree of connectedness.

All these enablers aligned at the right time to usher in glory for Hong Kong. It’s too early to predict if Hong Kong can replicate or exceed the success in Tokyo in the 2024 Paris Olympics. But it is evident that Tokyo’s success is not a “black swan” event.

Avisekh Biswas, Lantau

Unfair to offer Paralympians less prize money

I am writing to express my objection to Hong Kong Paralympic and Olympic medal winners not receiving equal rewards.

According to your report, “How much money do Hong Kong’s Paralympians win for a medal?” ( August 19), while Paralympians are also eligible for cash incentives under the Henderson Land Commendation Scheme for Elite Athletes, they get less prize money than those who compete in the Olympics.
Fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long, who took gold in the Tokyo Olympics, pocketed HK$5 million. A Paralympic gold medallist would only be awarded HK$800,000, around six times less than their Olympic counterpart. I think this is unfair.

Paralympians also worked hard to improve, probably more than their Olympian counterparts. It is difficult for many people with disabilities to exercise, let alone take part in and excel at a world-class competition. They are more worthy of encouragement, and should definitely enjoy the same monetary reward.

We should respect and take pride in all our athletes, regardless of whether they are Olympians or Paralympians. They are the heroes of Hong Kong.

Zara Leung, Tseung Kwan O