From video games addict to benchpress champion - how weightlifting transformed underprivileged students

From video games addict to benchpress champion - how weightlifting transformed underprivileged students

Eight student weightlifters show how dedication, determination and teamwork are more important than flashy equipment


Lee Wing-ki (left) and Poon Ka-fung giving Young Post free tickets to the gun show.
Photo: Andy Schallenberger/SCMP

Kwai Chung Methodist College doesn't have a fancy gym with high-tech equipment, but that certainly hasn't held back the school's weightlifting club - two members recently won gold medals at the Hong Kong Benchpress Championships 2015.

Chairman of the club, 15-year-old Lee Wing-ki, not only won gold in his 53kg weight class for Junior Men aged 14-18, he also set a new Hong Kong record with a bench press of 60kg.

But just six short months ago, Wing-ki had no interest in weightlifting - or any sports at all. "I didn't like sports," he admits. "I liked to play computer games."

But that all changed after Cliff Yeung Ting-fai, a teacher at the school and weightlifting enthusiast, decided to form the club about a year ago.

"The kids at this school usually come from very underprivileged families," says Yeung. "Because of a lack of financial help, they cannot take part in many extracurricular activities. So, the school tries to help. The principal was willing to sponsor our body-building club, and gave us money to buy the dumbbells and benches."

In the school's covered playground, eight boys gather around two weightlifting benches. Along with a few sets of adjustable dumbbells, this is all the equipment the school's body-building club has. The boys take turns doing bicep curls with the dumbbells. There aren't enough to go around, so the ones waiting their turn do push-ups or tricep dips.

"These are the only facilities we have," Yeung says. "But I'm happy to see the kids enjoying what they are doing."

Yeung makes the rounds helping the students with the weights and encouraging them. He also provides inspiration for the students.

Wing-ki says Yeung's muscular body was the reason he joined the club six months ago. "Mr Yeung's physical figure is my target," Wing-ki says, flexing his own arms. "My new build has made me look more mature."

Tips from a fitness and nutritional coach on what and how to eat for optimal health

Vice-chairperson Poon Ka-fung, 15, is another former couch potato and joystick jockey. But this year, he won a gold medal in his 59-66kg weight class for Junior Men at the Benchpress Championships.

"Before weightlifting, I played video and computer games," says Ka-fung. "Now I focus on weightlifting. Otherwise, I would have become fat."

Wing-ki says that a lot of his friends didn't understand his new hobby at first. "When we started, my classmates asked why I wanted muscles and why we trained," he says. "They were surprised to see how we looked six months later."

Wing-ki and Ka-fung are sharing their new passion for pumping iron with the younger, smaller members in the group. They watch over the newbies, lead the group warm-up, run exercise drills, and help guide the daily workouts.

"Wing-ki was a very soft-spoken boy," says Yeung. "But he has changed a lot. He is willing to help train the lower-form students and help them with the weight-training techniques."

Since Wing-ki and Ka-fung's success at the Benchpress Championships, the club has grown. "There were only a few members last year," says Yeung. "But other kids saw Wing-ki and Ka-fung's medals and wanted to have a go."

Wing-ki says that just because there aren't many weightlifting competitions for students, it shouldn't hold you back from training on your own. "Find someone to inspire you," he recommends. "Captain America is my target. And Batman."

Ka-fung says to start with the basics. "Start with push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups," he adds. "You can do all of these without any fitness equipment. Once you get stronger, start using a dumbbell."

And don't forget nutrition. "Eat more so you have the power to do weightlifting," says Wing-ki. "And swim to build your stamina."

Their biggest piece of advice is to keep going. "Don't feel frustrated at first. Everyone starts with the basics," says Ka-fung. "Don't worry what others say, do what you need to do, and do it to the end."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Benchpress to impress


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