Hong Kong Athletes: East Asian Games 2009

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We profile six of Hong Kong's most dangerous (okay, actually just really, really good) athletes as they prepare to compete for gold at the 2009 East Asian Games. Words by Andrew James and Teracy Wang. Portraits by Calvin Sit.

Interviews below the slideshow.

 

Geng Xiaoling  Wushu (photo)
Flying through the air with a sword is no easy task. Making it look fluid and simple, even less so. Geng Xiaoling does this flawlessly. Although the sport isn’t in the Olympics, it was a demonstration sport in Beijing in 2008. Geng won gold in the women’s daoshu and gunshu combined event.

And that wasn’t an isolated occurrence. In the 10th World Wushu Championships held in Canada this past October, Geng scored a gold in daoshu and a silver in gunshu. Since her style of wushu is performed solo, the strongest challenge she faces is internal. “My biggest rival is myself,” she says.

Although her sport is traditionally dominated by China, she says that’s starting to change. “China’s domination in Martial arts is being challenged. Wushu is becoming international.”

Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai Swimming (photo)
Cool-headed 26-year-old Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai is clearly one of Hong Kong’s greatest athletic assets. She has competed in the last three Olympics, holds nine Hong Kong swimming records, and is an aquatic goldmine for our national team. Unfortunately for us, the East Asian Games mark the last time she’ll represent Hong Kong.

Tsai explains getting her start in swimming: “When I was young, my brother had asthma so my parents signed us up for swimming lessons. I finished all the levels in a year. Then the coach recommended me to the Olympic team.”

Even though Tsai’s is a shoe-in for a top spot at the East Asian Games, she calmly reminds us, “I just want to have fun”. When the competition’s over, our swimming superstar intends to “go home and just be a normal girl”.

Steven Wong BMX (photo)
We catch up with Steven Wong practicing on the brand new Hong Kong Jockey Club BMX Track in Kwai Chung. Wong has never been beaten in the Asian BMX Championships since the event kick-started four years ago. The latest Asian Championship saw him win just two weeks after suffering a nearly broken ankle that kept him off his feet for four days. “The physical part was 100 per cent [fine], but my ankle – I didn’t know if it was going to hold on,” he says. However, the BMXer wouldn’t let it hold him back from another win, so all he could do was, “tape it up, take a pain killer, and see what happens”.

For the East Asian Games, Wong won’t speculate on the result – in a sport that’s fast and furious, anything can happen. “When I cross the finish line, then I’ll have a comment.”
 

Vicky Chan and Ho Chi-ho Windsurfing (photo)
Vicky Chan and Ho Chi-ho are passionate about their sport. Just mentioning windsurfing brings smiles to both of their faces – a frequent occurrence. They’re both incredibly friendly.

Ho, the quiet 28-year-old, is totally at home on Stanley Main Beach, and he should be – he’s lived his entire life here. He points behind him to show us where he was born. His uncle lived in the next building along the beach and was also a pro windsurfer. The sport is in his blood, and he’s shown it in becoming one of Asia’s very best.

Ho isn’t alone in his love for the sailboard. His wife, Vicky Chan is also at the top of her field in the sport.  In the recent National Games, they were both climbing to the top position when lack of wind curtailed the finals. Chan rose quickly in the sport to a professional level after starting late as hobbyist. Mind you, not much has changed. Asked what she does besides windsurfing, she pauses, before joking, “Hobbies? Windsurfing.”

Asked if being married and competing together was an advantage, Vicky says: “We compete and travel together so we have the advantage of not having to call home – or spend time on the internet.”

Tsui Chi-ho Running (photo)
At 19 years old, Tsui Chi-ho has his sights set on a long future in running. His dream is to compete in London’s 2012 Olympics. More immediately, however, the young sprinter is focused on the East Asian Games, where he’ll compete in the 4 x 100-metre relay. He’s got a decent shot at success, having won a silver and bronze in the 100-metre sprint, and a silver in the relay at this year’s Asian Grand Prix, and a gold at the Hong Kong Games, again in the 100-metre sprint.

Tsui started running seriously in 2005 after joining a training camp. His coach noticed he was way ahead of the other runners and asked him if he wanted to “run faster”. He’s since scaled the ranks and is now among Hong Kong’s top sprinters. At the recent National Games held in Shandong, China, his relay team had to endure a 20-degree-Celsius drop in temperature from their normally balmy Hong Kong training environment, costing them a spot on the winners’ podium. Back on home turf, they’re looking to change that at the East Asian Games.

 

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