Getting that gold medal is every athlete's dream. And athletes can train for years without ever being able to mount that first-place podium. But Chan Chi-fung achieved that goal in just two years.
"It was like a dream when I was presented with the gold medal on the podium," says the 17-year-old rowing star from Yu Chun Keung Memorial College. "I became the Asian junior champion just two years [after beginning my outdoor training]."
Chi-fung won his title in July at the 21st Asian Junior Rowing Championship in Wuhan , the capital city of Hubei province . His time of seven minutes, 20 seconds in the junior men's scull bested competitors from 10 other Asian countries - China, Japan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, India and Indonesia.
Even Chi-fung was surprised by his win. "I started the race with a mistake, and I was behind the rest of the competitors," he says. "I caught up with them at around the 200-metre mark and outraced them. I was able to maintain the lead until the finish and won by a margin of six seconds."
Almost everyone was surprised by Chi-fung's success because he was new to the sport. "I started with indoor rowing when I was in Form One because my school is very strong and competitive in the Inter-School Indoor Rowing competition," he says. "When I was in Form Three, my PE teacher introduced me to the Youth Rowing Development Programme."
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Chi-fung soon found that he excelled in the sport. "I am physically strong and good at indoor rowing," he admits. And others noticed his talent as well. "Later I was selected to join the Hong Kong junior rowing team and started training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute," he adds.
Chi-fung may now be the Asian junior champion, but things didn't exactly come naturally.
"When I started rowing, I was the slowest of the lot. I was unable to catch up with my other team-mates when I first started training at the HKSI because I was not as competitive in the water as I was when rowing with the ergometer," he says.
He learned quickly that rowing in the water is very different from indoor rowing. "I was afraid of drowning because I fell into the water when I began to learn rowing," Chi-fung admits. "I am not very good at body balance and water sense. It took me a long time and a lot of practice [and dedication] to overcome this challenge."
Now that Chi-fung has overcome his fears, he has no plans on stopping. "I want to win a medal at the Asian Games in 2022 and qualify for the Olympic Games in 2020 or 2024," he says.
If you could have an unlimited supply of anything, what would it be and why?
I want to have an unlimited supply of energy so that I can play sports non-stop.
Ten years into the future, you are a famous athlete. What company would you sign-on as spokesperson for, and what product would you promote?
Nike or Adidas and promote sportswear.