Bruising sport for tough guys

Bruising sport for tough guys

Artistic cycling competitors must be fearless – and happy to fall off, again and again.

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Artistic Cycling Cover_L
Photo: Edward Wong/SCMP
Artistic cycling is a sport for tough guys: you will end a day's training with cuts and bruises because you're always falling off your bike.

The sport, which involves competitors performing tricks known as "figures" - including handstands while riding a moving bicycle - may sound unfamiliar, but it attracts competitors from around the world.

"Artistic cycling's all about falling off your bike - and having the positive attitude to get up and do it again," says Hongkonger Michael Lo Ting-hin, who won a gold medal in the sport at the 2009 East Asian Games. "You perform figures on a moving bicycle, so it's certain you'll end up falling off in training."

Lo, 21, is in his second year studying sports and recreation at Baptist University's College of International Education.

"But I actually enjoy the pain of falling off my bike; it makes me determined to try again."

For the past six months, Lo has been passing on his skills to two up-and-coming competitors - Jeffrey Chan Chun-yin and Matthew Choy Fu-ki - every week at Bishop Walsh Primary School.

Jeffrey, 13, is a Form Three student at Tang King Po School, and Matthew, 12, a Form One student at Jockey Club Ti-I College.

Cyclists earn points, individually or in pairs, while balancing on special, fixed-gear bicycles; judges award points depending on the level of difficulty of the figures, and their artistic merit.

"You can easily spend the whole day falling off," Lo says. "There is no way to avoid it - or the pain from the scrapes and bruises, especially while you're training. It's a really tough sport, so it's important to have a positive attitude, and never give up. It means practice and more practice - and lots of bruises.

"A partnership will take a long time to become established; it's not like tennis, or badminton, for example, where you can team up with someone one minute and compete together almost immediately.

"It can mean rehearsing one figure thousands of times before you perfect it, to ensure you're ready for a competition and can earn top marks.

"Yet if you don't have the desire to keep going, the pain and disappointment of falling off, and defeat will stop you competing."

Lo won his title in the pairs event with teammate Samuel Yu Sum-yee.

"Samuel and I spent nine years training together and he guided me a lot in the sport," Lo says. "We spent lots of time together most days each week - training before and after school, and going overseas to compete."

In pairs events, one cyclist is normally lighter than the other, so they can be lifted up when performing figures.

The 1.71-metre-tall Matthew is younger than Jeffrey, but weighs 60 kilograms - almost 20kg more than his 1.52m-tall teammate.

"I found Jeffrey was really heavy to lift up at the beginning," Matthew says. "But after months of training, I've built up my muscles and am now able to carry him on my shoulders.

"I've also learned to balance on the bike while lifting Jeffrey and moving the bike.

"It helps that we are close friends; it builds up confidence, as it's important to trust each other when performing on the bike.

"When we fail and fall off, we'll immediately help each other to get up, and we rarely blame each other."

Lo says that, although the boys have yet to win a title, they can do well in the future. "They are working really hard to learn new figures," he says. "I am also teaching them how to do the transitions between figures.

"They are strong - both physically and mentally - so I think it's highly possible they can become another top Hong Kong artistic cycling pairing in the future."

(Special thanks to Bishop Walsh Primary School for providing the venue for the interview.)


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