Saturday, 20 August 2016

Where's Hong Kong's Olympic Drive?

Big dreams for Joseph Schooling (right) when he met Michael Phelps in 2008
The Summer Games in Rio are over tomorrow, but Hong Kong came home empty handed this year, raising questions of what went wrong, and why Singapore won its first gold medal ever with Joseph Schooling easily beating Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly.

Chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong tried to spin the negative outcome by saying Hong Kong people should avoid looking at Olympic medals as the be all and end all of sporting achievement, adding it was impossible to put a value on intangible benefits of our athletes at international sporting events.

His father Timothy saw Sarah Lee Wai-sze win bronze four years ago in London, and Lee Lai-shan clinch gold 20 years ago in windsurfing in Atlanta.

Kenneth Fok tries to manage Hong Kong's disappointment
Some bright spots in these Games have been Siobhan Haughey, who was the first Hong Kong female swimmer to qualify for an Olympic semi-final, and golfer Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching who worked hard to stay in the game.

Trying to put a brave face on Hong Kong's performance in Rio won't be enough for the Hong Kong public to wonder if athletes aren't given enough resources in terms of training facilities and coaches. The city's new commissioner for sport Yeung Tak-keung put things into perspective, saying Hong Kong has won three medals since first competing in 1952.

What does that say about the priority of sport in the city, and the tiny talent pool we have here?

It starts from parenting and the school system that encourages playing sports, and building talent from the grassroots level, and encouraging kids to continue playing, running, jumping, dribbling, kicking and so on.

Sarah Lee (left) came home empty handed this year
When parents tell their kids they should study than exercise, it's the wrong message -- sports can help them excel in academics, being more disciplined, more focused and more cooperative in working with others. These skills carry on into their working lives.

But it's going to take a long time for attitudes to change and realize academics and sports go hand in hand.

The more children take up sports, the bigger the talent pool and competition to be the best.

How did Schooling do it? In 2008 he took a picture with Phelps in Beijing, with the hopes that one day he would be just as good as his hero.

That is an Olympic dream come true.

Do Hong Kong athletes have the same drive?

The soul searching begins... again.

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