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Hong Kong Rugby First Team Sport to be Granted Elite Sport Status

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Videos Thursday, 25 April 2013
 

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) has been granted Elite Sport status by the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI).

Rugby is the first team sport to be granted this status under the new HKSI and Sports Commissions Elite Sport status criteria.

The granting of Elite Sport status will see the HKRFUs National Sevens Performance Programmes qualify for special training and financial support, to enhance their competitiveness on the Asian and international stage. This will include the mens and womens senior sevens national teams as well as the junior sevens national teams.

Mr Brian Stevenson, SBS, Vice President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China and President of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, said, I am tremendously pleased, as it is a great honour and achievement for rugby to be the first team sport recognized as an Elite Sport at the Institute. Im also pleased for Dai Rees, Leigh Jones, Kane Jury and Nathan Stewart and the rest of the performance team at the HKRFU and most importantly for the players, because at the end of the day we can set goals but they are the ones who have to achieve them and they have done remarkably well.

I have had a look at the new Sports Institute and the equipment and technology they have is really quite remarkable, added Mr Stevenson. For coaches and players, it will be an extremely useful way to improve performance. Mixing with elite athletes form other sports will also be great for our players as they can learn from their friends and colleagues in other sports and at the same time, I think it is very good for other sports to be exposed to the unique discipline that comes from a team sport like rugby. Overall, it is a great step for Hong Kong sport.

Mr Trevor Gregory, Chairman of the HKRFU, said, This is a momentous achievement for the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union which has come about due to the efforts of many people over many years. The HKRFU are very grateful and indebted to those people, in particular, to one very special person who is no longer with us to see the fruits of those efforts, Mr Con Conway, who was a Vice President of the SF&OC and of the HKRFU, and who I am sure will be smiling down on us today and feeling proud and satisfied at the results of a job well done.

From 1 April 2013, the HKRFU national sevens teams will receive an annual stipend to be distributed to qualified players from the target teams. The programme will run for a four-year cycle with two year reviews, contingent on the teams meeting or exceeding their competitive performance targets.

HKRFU Head of Performance and Coaching and National Coach - Dai Rees  

Dai Rees - Click to Enlarge (more pics)

 

Dai Rees, Head of Performance and Coaching for the HKRFU, called it an historic moment for rugby in Hong Kong. We have been awarded Elite Sport status based on our performances across three key criteria: National/Regional Games like the Asian and East Asian Games, Asian championships and world championships at both senior and junior level.

The process started in 2010 when the mens sevens team won silver at the Asian Games, becoming the first Hong Kong team sport to medal at a multi-sport National Games. Following their performance at the Asian Games, athletes in the mens sevens team were awarded individual training grants from HKSI while the HKRFU as an NSA received a general funding grant to develop sevens rugby at the performance level, within Hong Kong.

Hong Kongs success continued following the Asian Games in 2010. Hong Kongs victory on the 2012 HSBC Asian Sevens Series saw them become the top sevens team in Asia, as well as qualify for the 2013 IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, further strengthening the HKRFUs case for Elite Sport status.

The mens U20 sevens team won silver medals at the last two Asian Rugby Football Union U20 sevens tournaments in 2011 and 2012. This proved to be the vital last part in achieving the criteria to gain Elite Sport status.

The Hong Kong mens sevens team is currently preparing for several key competitions including the London Sevens, the finale of this years HSBC Sevens World Series, where they have a chance to qualify for core team status on the worlds premier international sevens circuit.

In June, Hong Kong will travel to Moscow to take part in its sixth consecutive Rugby World Cup Sevens and have been invited to be Asias representatives in the World Games in August of this year in Colombia, which will be the final time that rugby sevens will be included in the games as it returns to the Olympic family starting with the Summer Games in Rio in 2016.

The team will also participate in its first ever All-China Games qualification tournament in June, in a bid to secure inclusion in the full All-China Games in September.

The timing of the HKSI support is particularly significant as in 2016, rugby sevens will make its Olympic debut as part of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One dedicated spot will be reserved for an Asian mens and womens sevens team at the 2016 Olympics.

The HKRFU will now work closely with the HKSI to develop ongoing training and performance programmes designed to ensure that Hong Kong remains competitive as they strive for Olympic qualification.

One of the best parts of the programme is that it will allow us to create a more complete framework for development. The HKSI support reinforces and adds value to our existing development and training programmes, while the funding allocated for sevens will help free up financial resources internally that can be devoted to supporting our fifteen-aside programme for men and women and for nurturing and developing talented athletes at lower age grade levels, said Rees.

The funding provided under the terms of the Elite Sport programme will allow the HKRFU to engage its elite athletes at both senior and junior level on a full or part-time basis and across the full HKRFU sevens programmes for the first time.

Rowan Varty, captain of the Hong Kong Mens Sevens Team  

Rowan Varty, captain of the Hong Kong Mens Sevens Team - Click to Enlarge (more pics)

 

Rowan Varty, captain of the Hong Kong mens sevens team said, I'm very happy that sevens has been made an elite sport at the HKSI. We've been training at their excellent facility in Shatin for a few years now and to be part of the elite there, alongside Olympic medallists, is a great honour. Acceptance by the HKSI is a strong nod of approval from the Hong Kong Government and sports community. I'm proud to be part of a sport that Hong Kong has embraced as its own in the last few years, on the back of our success. I have no doubt that rugby in Hong Kong will develop even faster now.

Rees agreed with Vartys estimate of a hastening of local rugby development arising from the HKRFUs Elite Sport status, saying, We can now offer an opportunity to promising players to become full-time professional athletes, which will help us keep pace with other professional teams in Asia like Japan, as well as with sevens teams on the international stage, more and more of which are contracting players on a full-time basis. We are also excited about what elite sport status will do to help grow the game in the local community. Now we can offer promising local athletes from a variety of sports backgrounds, the chance to pursue a career in rugby and give them the opportunity to join other local athletes in an HKSI-sanctioned sport.

Sevens team member Salom Yiu Kam-shing also commented on rugbys inclusion into the HKSI saying, Being an Elite Sport will mean that more resources are available for team training which will improve our preparation for upcoming competitions. For me personally, it could mean more income and support which will help me focus more on my training and less on worrying about how to make ends meet. The increased media and public awareness for rugby as an Elite Sport will attract more new blood into the sport, which is great for the development of the game in Hong Kong. I think more local players will be attracted to the sport now that Hong Kong rugby will have a more organized structure and better career prospects.

The confirming of Elite Sport status has been a long-time goal for the HKRFU as a whole and the Performance Department especially, said Rees. It was a strategic target that we set to achieve and one that required a lot of hard work by the players, management and all of the staff at the HKRFU. We have had great results on the pitch which are obviously rewarding as a coach, but to be granted Elite Sport status by the HKSI and to see the resulting recognition and resources made available for rugby through this, I think it will go down as one of the most significant milestones in the history of Hong Kong Rugby.

See also: Pictures from 2013 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens

HKRFU, Rugby, Hong Kong

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