Mak Cheuk-wing, the 13-year-old junior world windsurfing champion, says she won’t let her sporting success affect her school work.
Hong Kong’s newest sporting hero got a taste of the media spotlight she would be under when she returned to the city on Monday night. Cheuk-wing seemed very calm as she was greeted by a large number of TV and news reporters at Chek Lap Kok airport.
“Windsurfing and basketball can train my concentration, and help develop analytical skills and team spirit, make personal development a little better – now I want to develop together academics and sports,” she said.
Already the teenager is being hailed in local media as “daughter of the wind”, the heir apparent to Lee Lai-shan, Hong Kong’s only Olympic gold medallist. This is despite the fact she’s not even eligible for the Hong Kong team for another year.
Cheuk-wing won the under-15s title in the Techno 293 class on Lake Garda in Italy at the weekend.
The student from St Stephen’s Girls’ College said she would not get carried away with hopes of emulating San-san, who won windsurfing gold at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. First, she would set her sights on reaching the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina – and getting a plate of her favourite fried rice.
“I’ve read about her in books,” she said, referring to local hero Lee, who won gold seven years before she was born.
Cheuk-wing is also a member of her school’s basketball team and only stepped on to a surf board for the first time four years ago.
“I was a kid playing basketball, and sometimes came home from school and saw many people windsurfing in Stanley, so I also wanted to try,” she said.
She thanked her father for the time he dedicated to her training. “Every time I go to practice, my father would be waiting for me on the shore, such support makes me more motivated,” she said.
Coach Cheng Hing-lun said she had plenty of room for improvement, adding that she could get fitter and stronger. But, the coach said, her strong character helped her beat older girls. “Even in the training squad, all her ‘brothers and sisters’ are over the age of 14, and she has to deal with it,” Cheng said. “She was more mature in dealing with the pressure this time [after failing to win a medal in the European championships in July].”
Athletes aren’t formally eligible for the Hong Kong team until they are 14, but it is expected an exception will be made for Cheuk-wing.
And after spending so much time eating nothing but pasta in Italy, Cheuk-wing was in no doubt what her top priority was on returning to Hong Kong: “Most of all I want to eat fried rice!”