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Hong Kong Sports Institute

Why are we the exception? Gymnastics makes a (gold-plated) case to return to Hong Kong’s elite Sports Institute

Armed with impressive results from the Asian Games in Indonesia, the elite training centre has ammunition to press government for new facilities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 10:19pm

Gymnastics has made a compelling case for its return to the Sports Institute, more than a decade after being forced to leave their training venue at the Fo Tan complex.

Thanks to Shek Wai-hung winning back-to-back gold medals in the vault at the Indonesia Asian Games last month, the Gymnastics Association is pressing for reinstatement at the elite venue.

“We have already proved our quality with Shek’s success at the top level and to help develop more potential gymnasts like Shek, we need a permanent venue back at the Sports Institute,” said Gymnastics Association chairman Cheung Siu-yin.

“It’s not only because we are a tier A programme but also our athletes can more easily access other support services provided by the institute. That helps our programme a lot.”

Gymnastics has been training at the Challenge Gymnasium in the Fo Tan complex since its opening in the early 1980s.

However, the sport was axed from the elite programme in 1999 after failing to meet the selection criteria and its venue was also later converted into a table tennis training hall.

Asian Games: Hong Kong wins vault gold in Indonesia as Shek Wai-hung makes it two in two days

Since then, the sport has been using facilities under the government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department in Ma On Shan and Shun Lee Tsuen, even though gymnastics was readmitted to the elite programme after meeting selection standards again in 2011.

“We did well in the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games thanks to the support from the elite programme, but if we want to raise our standard to a higher level, a permanent training venue back at the Sports Institute is a prerequisite,” said Cheung.

“We don’t think we are asking for too much. Many of the other tier A sports have their own training venues at the institute and we have been discussing this with the institute. I can’t see why we are an exception.”

Gold medal winner Shek also longed for a return to the well-equipped permanent venue.

“The venue we are now using in Shun Lee Tsuen is too small to cater for all our training needs,” he said. “As the squad expands, we need more space and more training equipment that can help us do better. Setting up a permanent centre at the Sports Institute should be the next step.”

Sports Institute chairman Lam Tai-fai said gymnastics, like any tier A sports, had every justification in asking for better venue support from the government after reviewing their performance at the 2018 Asian Games.

“We will soon sit down with the government to discuss our future needs after our athletes returned with so many impressive results from Indonesia,” Lam said. “New facilities will definitely be one of the subjects. Sports science and sports medicine support must expand, while we also need more accommodation space for our growing number of full-time athletes.”

The institute plans to build a new facility next to the swimming pool but the government must first agree to funding for the construction.

“It’s always important for a tier A sport to have its own designated venue at the Sports Institute for the sake of running a comprehensive training programme,” said a source from the institute.

“We have a piece of land near the entrance which has been reserved for a new facility but the government must agree to meet the construction cost first. We’ll then discuss what sort of facilities, such as a multi-purpose training venue we can provide there.”