Hong Kong's top mixed doubles pair of Chau Hoi-wah and Reginald Lee Chun-hei currently rank 10th in the world. They were first local pair to win a World Badminton Superseries at the 2015 Australian Super Series in Sydney. But, like other athletes, their road to the top is far from easy. They told Young Post how they work well with each other tactically and mentally.
Chau, 29, brings a lot of experience to her partnership with Lee, who is 21. Specialising in doubles, Chau has taken part in a number of international competitions and paired with badminton stars such as Wong Wai-hong and Chan Tsz-ka. She says her ability to tackle unexpected and tough situations matches well with Lee's advanced techniques.
Chau says she tries to "treat competitions as simply as possible," adding that her approach is to "take it easy, relax, and don't put too much pressure on winning or losing, as that will affect your performance.
"It's more important to focus on how to train harder, and prepare well for upcoming matches. Such tactical and mental preparation is something I can share with Lee."
Experience comes from tough matches - especially those that end in defeat. Accepting defeat is one of the toughest things for any athlete, but overcoming it is another story.
"Mainlanders Huang Kaixiang and Huang Dongping overpowered us and won gold at the 2015 US Open Grand Prix Gold," said Chau. "Lee and I had to face this truth and evaluate why we lost. We chose to be tougher and focus more on our strengths, like speed and power. Our hard work paid off as we enjoyed sweet revenge over the same mainland opponents at the 2015 Canada Open Grand Prix just a few days later."
The US and Canada Opens were a confidence booster for Lee, as they showed him he had become mentally and tactically stronger.
Both players say communication is an essential part of every match. They frequently discuss tactics, and support each other at training and competitions. As well as his camaraderie with Chau, Lee said the help of his coaches Chen Kang and Choong Tan-fook is indispensable.
"The toughest moment was the defeat at the 2015 India Super Series in March, losing 21-10, 21-8 to [Japan's] Kenichi Hayakawa and Misaki Matsutomo in the second round. I felt down for a few weeks after that match," said Lee. "Thanks to my coaches, Chen and Choong, [I bounced back]. They shared their wisdom with me and told me not to take it too seriously. Without their advice, I would've continued to feel my bad time, or I would've gone into a nosedive."
"I really look up to my coaches. Choong focuses on strengthening my techniques and coordination with Chau," said Lee. "Chen has taught me to be brave and confident. I remember to be humble, too, even as I win titles."
Reginald Lee bench notes:
What music do you listen before competitions?
Classical music. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music helps me stay calm and focused.
If you could have any superpower for 24 hours, what would you choose and how would you use your power?
I would choose Iron Man's intelligence. The ability to think and react quickly would enable me to prepare for every competition.
How do you reward yourself after intense competitions?
I treat myself to a buttered pineapple bun and milk tea. Given my tight schedule of training and competitions, I can't have them until I finish a match. So the idea of a bun and milk tea motivates me to train and play harder.
Chau Hoi-wah bench notes:
Who is your favourite athlete?
Basketball player Michael Jordan. He is a very talented athlete, but his success wasn't based on individualism. He knew team spirit was key to success, so he tried his best to maximise his teammates' potential and work well with them.
What badminton players do you admire?
Gao Ling and Gong Zhichao. I look up to Gong as she trains really hard. Gao is a successful doubles player, and I learned a lot from her in terms of technique and mental strength.
What drink would you never give up?
Coffee and tea.
Who is your favourite singer?
Legendary Hong Kong singer Anita Mui Yim-fong. Her life was full of guts and guile, but she remained unruffled. Her songs, like Sunset Melody and The Woman of Songs, reflect how powerful and perseverant she was.