Elite status confirmed, Hong Kong skaters now seek training venue at Sports Institute

The city’s athletes are looking to the future after featuring in the past four Olympics and securing tier A status

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 9:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 10:27pm

They’ve attended the past four Winter Olympics, they’ve achieved tier A status at the Sports Institute, and now there’s a strong chance Hong Kong’s fast-improving skaters will have their own elite training venue.

Skating will become the first ice sport to be included in the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s elite programme, which kicks off a new four-year funding cycle this weekend, giving top athletes access to millions of dollars of support in coaching, training, sports science and sports medicine.

However, it has been a dream of local skaters to have their own training venue and the Sha Tin-based institute could come to their rescue.

“We have discussed the possibility [of building a venue at the Institute] because they are now a tier A sport,” said a member of the Sports Commission. “We understand it is important for the sport to have their own training venue, just like other elite sports if they want to further develop and reach the highest levels.

“Of course it is not going to happen overnight as it involves a lot more discussion before we can come up with a concrete plan.”

The commission advises the government on funding and resources for sports development and this month approved 19 elite sports to receive support from the Institute over the next four years.

Edith Lau Shan, an official with the Hong Kong Skating Union, said the body had been working hard over the years to convince the government to give them a dedicated ice rink.

“We have been training in commercial venues for a long time and it’s not easy to get suitable time slots nowadays because skating is getting more popular in Hong Kong,” said Lau. “Even so, none of these venues is up to competition standard for short-track skating.

“Although we have sent athletes to four Winter Olympics, they all trained overseas before securing qualification.

“In fact, we have been discussing setting up a temporary training facility with the support of the Sports Institute after we get into the elite programme and this will be extremely important to our development programmes.”

Hong Kong’s top two figure skaters – Maisy Ma Hiu-ching and Christy Leung Yi – are training overseas in the United States and Beijing respectively and will return for next month’s Hong Kong Championships.

Ma finished 10th at the recent Asian Winter Games in Sapporo while Leung finished an encouragig ninth out of 44 competitors at the 2017 junior World Championship.

Leung also captured the first medal for Hong Kong at the China National Winter Games when she came third in the free skating in Xinjiang last year.

Lau said the support received as an elite sport would enhance their skaters’ chances at future Games, thought it comes too late for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“With the new support, we can set sights on qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which will be the biggest mission for both Ma and Leung,” said Lau.