Golden wushu debut

Golden wushu debut

A martial artist grabbed the opportunity for glory when he finally got the chance to compete for Hong Kong

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Wushu athlete Wyatt Lee Kin-fai, 17, who is a double Asian champion.
Wushu athlete Wyatt Lee Kin-fai, 17, who is a double Asian champion.
Photo: David Wong/SCMP
Perseverance has finally paid off for 17-year-old wushu star Wyatt Lee Kin-fai. It paid off handsomely, too, with the martial artist becoming a double Asian junior champion.

In the past three years, Wyatt - a second-year sports management student at the Institute of Vocational Education (Chai Wan) - had always missed out on competing for Hong Kong in junior international events.

With his 18th birthday approaching, he thought his last chance had gone when he came second in a Hong Kong qualifying event - and missed out on the one place available at last month's Asian Junior Wushu Championships in Shanghai.

However, an injury to his compatriot meant Wyatt had a late call-up. Rather than being overawed by the occasion, he had an outstanding competition, winning two gold medals in the Nanquan ("southern fist") barehanded event and Duilian (dual event). He also won a silver in Nandao (southern single-edged sword).

"In every selection competition before major tournaments, I've always just missed out on getting a place in the team," says Wyatt. "I'd finish third in qualifying when they needed only two athletes to go to an event. And I was always on stand-by as first substitute, but was never needed."

"Yet I always stayed optimistic. So when I was not selected for the Asian Championships, it was not a big deal. I went back to training the very next day. Then my coach told me my teammate was injured and would not recover in time and I should replace him.

"I didn't feel that excited as my teammate had been hurt, but knew I would try to do my best."

Wyatt had only two weeks to prepare for the competition, but feared fate would prevent him from realising his dream when - at the last moment - he also suffered an injury. "I twisted my right ankle during the warm-up at a local championship on August 14. It was only five days before the Asian Championships," Wyatt says.

"I competed in the Nanquan event and won the silver medal. But my ankle was so painful that I had to withdraw from my other two events."

He was admitted to hospital and given painkillers and icepacks to reduce the swelling. He also wore a protective pad inside his shoes during the Shanghai competition.

"This affected my performance as I couldn't get used to the pads. I made some basic errors in my first event, Nanquan - things that I should have never done," Wyatt says. "Those errors cost me some penalty points and so I was immediately left outside the top 10 positions."

Wyatt was so upset that he struggled to sleep. But the Hong Kong coach, Wong Chi-kwong, did not blame Wyatt for the mistakes and told him to remain positive. He shrugged off his first-day disappointment to claim two gold medals - missing out on a third gold by only 0.01 of a point - and one silver.

"My target was simply to win a medal as a souvenir for myself - to mark the end of my junior career," Wyatt says.

"It felt really special to listen to our national anthem standing on the podium."

Wyatt's efforts helped Hong Kong claim its best medal tally at an Asian Championships - six gold, eight silver and three bronze medals.

For Wyatt, taking part in the three-day tournament was a dream come true.

"I'm 50:50 when it comes to believing whether fate has had anything to do with it all ... I just kept staying positive," he says. "But my success - winning the gold and silver medals - was very encouraging. Now I will see if I can become a full-time athlete - but after graduation, of course. Right now I know I must finish my [higher] diploma first."

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