The only coach to guide a Hong Kong athlete to an Olympic gold medal, Rene Appel, has left windsurfing officials with big shoes to fill after deciding not to renew his contract with the Sports Institute. The Dutchman, who came to Hong Kong in 1989, will leave the elite training centre in Fo Tan when his contract expires in March. Appel helped Lee Lai-shan win Olympic gold at the Atlanta Games in 1996. Before that, he guided Lee to silver at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, a first for the sport at the Asiad. Three years later, she won the World Championships, another first. Rene Appel has done an exceptional job for windsurfing, not only for the Olympic gold medal, but also the long-term development work that has made Hong Kong a keen challenger at the world's highest level Cowen Chiu But-kau, HK Windsurfing Association president At the most recent Asian Games in Incheon this year, the windsurfing team had their best ever results, two gold and two silver medals. Cowen Chiu But-kau, president of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association, paid tribute to Appel for raising the sport's standard to a world level. "We want to put it on record Appel has done an exceptional job for windsurfing, not only for the Olympic gold medal, but also the long-term development work that has made Hong Kong a keen challenger at the world's highest level," said Chiu. "It's definitely a great loss to the sport but we respect his decision and wish him all the best in future." It is believed the coach resigned to spend more time with his family after recently marrying. He turned down requests for comment. Chiu said they had yet to speak to the Sports Institute regarding Appel's successor, but would prefer a local candidate to take over the top job. "We will be meeting the institute this week regarding Appel's replacement and our preference will be a local coach," he said. "It always takes time for a new coach to pick up the job and if the replacement is from overseas, it may even take more time - but our programme can hardly wait with the new Olympic cycle having already begun. "We understand there is a procedure for appointing the head coach including a global recruitment exercise, but we hope this can be sorted out with the institute as soon as possible." Hong Kong's candidates for the 2016 Olympic Games have started their build-up, with Hayley Chan Hei-man, who finished 11th at the 2012 London Games, joined by Sonia Lo Sin-lam, Michael Cheng Chun-leung and Lee Chun-ting for a training camp in Rio de Janeiro. Andy Leung Ho-tsun, the men's RSX representative at the London Olympics, was disappointed about Appel leaving, but his target of competing at the next Games would not be affected. "He has been in the position for many years and has done a great job for the athletes," said Leung, who is resting in Hong Kong with a back injury. "His departure may create uncertainties but there should not be any problem with a smooth transition. I just have to do my training properly and work with the new coach."