Representing Hong Kong
TriHK has a comprehensive program to encourage members to represent Hong Kong either as Elite Athletes or as Age Groupers. One of the great advantages of competing in triathlon is the age-group system which enables people to compete from childhood until they are over 70 years old. TriHK has a long history of having competitors representing Hong Kong at the Elite or Age Group level in many races throughout Asia and the world.
TriHK is a member of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) and the Asian Triathlon Confederation (ASTC). Events endorsed by these organisations are recognised by the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) for qualification as a sport included at the HKSI. A priority is therefore given to preparing athletes to race in events sponsored by these international bodies. These include the Olympics, the Asian Games, the University World Championships, the annual Asian Championships, the Asian series of races, the annual ITU World Championship and ITU series of races held throughout the world. These elite events are often accompanied by races for age group athletes. Other races such as Ironman or Challenge races are not a priority under this system, but TriHK encourages people to take part in these events as well.
Age Group Representation
TriHK encourages age group members to take part in races in other countries in Asia and other places throughout the world. Representation is relatively simple as generally you need only be a registered member of TriHK and have proven ability to complete the event you are to enter. For the annual Asian Championships and ITU World Championships, athletes must meet the requirement of 1 year’s residence in Hong Kong and are required to compete in the approved TriHK team kit. Representation needs to be confirmed by the selection committee and entries must be made through TriHK.
TriHK runs some training sessions for Age Group athletes and the timing and location can be found on the web site. Age Groupers are also eligible for consideration in the pre-Elite Squads which are the Regional Squad and the National Development Squad.
There is no funding assistance for age group competitors who must pay their own entry and other expenses.
TriHK has an elite squad training system which follows the age categories of the ITU:-
- Youth 15 to 17
- Junior 16 to 19
- Under 23 - 18 to 23
- Open Elite
If you make it into one of these squads you could soon be racing against the best athletes of your age in Asia, or at the ITU World Championships.
Members of the elite squads are eligible for training under the National Coach and coaching team based at the HKSI. The HKSI has world class training facilities, sport specific coaches, support services such as strength training, nutrition advice, sports science analysis, sports phycology, and team training programs. In addition, elite athletes’ racing and training programs are designed to suit their own personal development and objectives. Certain races will be targeted to achieve their best results, and to perform well at the Asian Championships or ITU World Championships. Team training and racing is an important part of performing well on the Asian or International race circuit, and this team racing is developed in the squad system. Training camps will be held in both Hong Kong and in other countries focusing on progressively improving performance.
Managing Time and Pressure
Athletes in the elite squads learn how to manage their personal time as they deal with conflicting requirements from training, competing, education, family and social life. Helping to manage this pressure is an important part of the program and relatively flexible arrangements are in place so as to enable athletes to achieve good all-round performance. For example, important examinations take place during this period of the athletes life, and at these times the training regime can be adjusted. Also the squad training system takes place at different times and places so as to minimize conflicts and to reduce travelling time.
Successful squad members will be part of a program which is designed to see them perform at their best as they mature. The objective is to consistently have athletes competing on the ITU World Circuit and qualifying to compete at the Olympic Games. These athletes will make triathlon their profession and are involved full time, in training and racing all around the world.
There is a comprehensive funding program available through the HKSI and Government funding which means that athletes training in the elite squads have most of their training and competition costs covered. Where funding is not adequate to meet all expenses, athletes may be invited to take part in programs or competitions on a self-funding basis. Elite squad training is focused on enabling a small number of talented athletes to achieve a high level of sustained excellence at an international level.
Qualifying for a Squad
The details for becoming a squad member are outlined in TriHK’s “Selection Policy”. To be in a squad an athlete must be able to meet minimum standards and continue to perform at the appropriate level. Regular benchmarking is held for swimming, running and cycling, and different qualifying levels are set for the different squads. These set the basic level of performance for consideration for selection.
In addition, performance of athletes in various races in Hong Kong and elsewhere is monitored and forms an important part of the selection process. To remain in a squad, an athlete must train and perform in a consistent manner, and must have the temperament to become a top competitor. Constant reviews of performance at training and racing are undertaken by the coaches and regular reports made to the Selection Committee. Ways to improve performance are discussed and implemented. However, if performance does not continue to meet the required standards, the athlete may be removed from the squad.
Remote Training System
It is sometimes difficult for athletes to always train with the squad. It is very important for the training program for a squad member to be prepared and monitored by the National Coach and his team at the HKSI, so as to make sure a suitable systematic training program is being followed. A coaching system has long been in place under the National Coach where coaches who are not part of the HKSI can oversee an athlete’s training. A number of athletes have always trained under this system, provided these athletes take part in the squad sessions at least once a week. These squad sessions may be at the HKSI or elsewhere in Hong Kong. Other athletes have remained in the program while attending University overseas, where a competent coach has overseen the training and racing program and reported to the National Coach on a regular basis.
The remote training system allows athletes to continue to train with coaches who have got them to an acceptable level to be in the squad. The coach must be of an acceptable standard to be part of the program, and is required to plan the athletes training and racing program in conjunction with the Head Coach. A weekly training diary must be provided by the coach so that the training effort and performance can be monitored by the National Coaching team.
The elite program is funded by limited amounts of public money. Any athlete who accepts an invitation to join the elite program must therefore participate to the full extent required. So that each participant is aware of these obligations a form is available under “Elite Athletes Obligations”. Each athlete who joins the elite squad system is required to sign the form and then to ensure that all of the obligations are met. Should the obligations not be met, then the athlete may be removed from the squad.
How You Can Represent Hong Kong
If an athlete has talent or potential, it is important that they become part of the squad system before they are 17 years old. If they join at that age they will obtain the necessary technical skills so that they can improve as they mature and become stronger. The later they join, the more difficult it becomes, but it is not impossible. In particular, athletes that have performed well in other sports, such as swimming, may benefit by a change to a multi-sport event like triathlon. If you have the talent and ambition to perform well, then approach TriHK, join the next time trial and see if you can meet the standard to qualify for selection to an elite squad. You could soon be competing at the Asian Championships or the ITU World Championships.
The ideal objective is for athletes to move through the elite squads and become full time athletes once they are older than 23. While some will be able to do that, there may come a time when an athlete may find elite competition is no longer appropriate for what they want to do in life. There is a great alternative available once they leave the Elite Squad system, and that is to continue to compete in races all round the world as an Age Grouper. This means you could continue to compete internationally at a level suited to your ability, continue to taste success and obtain great personal satisfaction.
30 December 2014