I’m ready to quit my job: Hong Kong’s disabled athletes look forward to receiving full-time financial support
Boccia player Leung Yuk-wing and wheelchair fencer Yu Chui-yee are among the Paralympians who welcome recommendations of a Baptist University study
One is ready to quit his job while another is thinking of reviving her 2020 Tokyo Olympic ambitions after a consultancy study recommended that disabled athletes receive the same level of training and financial support as their able-bodied counterparts.
Leung Yuk-wing, who won gold at the Rio Paralympics in boccia, and wheelchair fencer Yu Chui-yee were among the disabled athletes who welcomed the Baptist University study.
“I would no doubt quit my job to become a full-time athlete as this will help my athletics career, but of course the financial support must also be rewarding,” said Leung. “Hopefully it can match what the able-bodied athletes are receiving.”
Leung and Yu were among 18 athletes who received a total of HK$1.82 million for their performances at the Rio Paralympic Games via the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s Jockey Club Incentive Awards.
Currently, all disabled athletes are part-timers and must work full-time to earn a living. They are only able to train after work or school when preparing for major competitions.
“We were training 11 to 12 hours a week in preparation for the Rio Games and if we want to do well in Tokyo, I am sure we have to increase our training intensity as the world of disabled sports is getting tougher and tougher. A full-time programme would definitely help,” said Leung.
Wheelchair fencer Yu Chui-yee said she was looking forward to a positive outcome from the study. The 32-year-old, who first represented Hong Kong at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, said the Tokyo Olympics was now looking more appealing though she has yet to make a firm decision.
“If there is a full-time programme, it would definitely foster my desire to take part in my fifth Paralympics, in Tokyo,” said Yu. “Training full-time is becoming a trend in disabled sports. If you don’t train full time, it will be difficult for you to stay competitive at the top level.
“But I hope the process will not take too long as the 2018 Asian Para Games and the Tokyo Paralympics are not too far away and if there is a delay, it would definitely hamper our preparation work.”
Leung said he was grateful for the rewards of Thursday’s incentive scheme, though he felt there was room for improvement, saying other Asian countries had offered higher rewards.
Yu failed to win a gold medal in Rio – the first time in her four Paralympic appearances that she missed out on the top podium place, instead winning two silvers.
She was reluctant to suggest how much disabled athletes should be given.
“We care more about the training and it should be the job of the experts to design the new scheme, but of course we hope it will be at least a five-digit number in terms of monthly income,” she said.
Tony Yu Kwok-leung, chairman of the Elite Sports Committee, said a full-time programme can provide more opportunities for disabled athletes.
“People may consider disabled people a burden and if we can provide them opportunities to receive social recognition through a full-time programme and become the pride of the community, we should do that,” he said. “Money is not a major concern as the Sports Institute has funding support from the government and it is also the government’s responsibility to support disabled sports in Hong Kong.”