Sports Institute teams up with schools so young Hong Kong talents can study and train full-time
Programme hailed as a breakthrough that will boost medal chances
Hong Kong's hopes of future medal success will be given a boost on Thursday when a new education programme allowing students to become full-time athletes at the Hong Kong Sports Institute is rolled out.
The HKSI will sign an agreement with the English Schools Foundation which will see three schools - King George V School (KGV), Sha Tin College and Renaissance College - come on board, allowing students aged 15 to 17 to become full-time athletes while still going to school on a "flexible and tailor-made programme" to accommodate their studies. Lam Tai Fai College in Sha Tin will join next month.
"This is a breakthrough development as one of the key barriers to having a critical mass of 500 full-time athletes [at the HKSI] is the requirement for full-time secondary school," said HKSI chief executive Trisha Leahy.
"This tailor-made programme can help young athletes - and reassure parents - to take the leap into becoming full-time high-performance athletes."
It is expected the new scheme will attract almost 40 new full-time athletes. They will be provided with a monthly grant, hostel facilities, enhanced tutorial services and a tuition fee subsidy, as well as transport to and from school to the HKSI. There are 280 full-time athletes across 17 tier A sports at the elite training academy.
The HKSI has met its goal in recent years of an annual 10 per cent increase in the number of full-time athletes. The new scheme will fast track the process, which Leahy said is bound to boost Hong Kong's chances of medal success.
"Having full-time athletes is really important. All the gold and silver medals at last year's Asian Games were won by full-time athletes. So imagine what would happen if we had 500 full-time athletes instead of the current 280. We could significantly increase the return on the government's investment in elite sport," Leahy said.
HKSI athletes won 40 of the 42 medals, including six golds and 12 silver medals, at the Incheon Asian Games.
"We expect 15 to 20 students to join from the three ESF schools and a similar number from Lam Tai Fai and gradually build up each year," Leahy said.
The HKSI's partnership schools programme is an extension of the Elite Athlete Friendly School network (EAFN) started last year where students in secondary and tertiary institutions can become part-time athletes at the HKSI, having flexible study times suited to fit their training and competition needs.
"The new scheme is solely for full-time athletes while the other one [EAFN] is for part-time athletes. A school can be involved in both programmes. We brought in the EAFN for those students who cannot train full-time. At least we are maximising their capability to access more of their training time," Leahy said.