Twenty years after windsurfer Lee Lai Shan, aka “San-san”, won the city’s first and only Olympic gold in 1996, Mak Cheuk-wing is becoming one of the city’s brightest prospects for coming Games. The 13-year-old St Stephen’s Girls student sailed into the history books when she won the title at an international race in Italy earlier this year.
Cheuk-wing beat opponents from France and Israel to take first place in the Techno 293 junior girls U-15 class in October. It was Hong Kong’s first world title in the Techno class, an achievement that earned praise from Chief Executive CY Leung on his Facebook page, and caused many to hail her as the next San-san. The Techno 293 is seen as a path to the Youth Olympic Games, which will be held in 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Cheuk-wing built on her Italy success last month, when she dominated the Windsurfing Association of Hong Kong’s Stanley circuit. Despite taking some time to find her feet on opening day, she had an impressive run in the final two races, and claimed both the girls’ under-15 and under-17 titles.
“The world title did give me help – possibly some additional mental power,” she said at the event. “I was a bit nervous on opening day after picking the wrong course in the first race, but [on the last day] I was fully relaxed and I didn’t feel pressure to showcase my ability.”
Hong Kong’s junior world windsurfing champion Mak Cheuk-wing on what got her into the sport and who motivates her
The rising star surfer is also a seasoned basketball player on her school team, and has been playing that sport for a lot longer than she has been windsurfing. In fact, she only stepped onto a surf board for the first time four years ago.
“Coming home from basketball training, I would always see people windsurfing in Stanley. That’s how I became interested in the sport,” she recalls. “With my dad’s support, I began windsurfing and it’s become my main sport.” From the moment she saw those surfers at Stanley, Cheuk-wing knew that she’d love the sport. “It is very exciting and I like the feeling of balancing on the board over the waves.”
Her dad’s support has been key to the teenager’s training. When she encountered a mob of reporters upon arriving back in Hong Kong, Cheuk-wing thanked him for the time he dedicated to her training.
“Every time I go to practice, my father waits for me on the shore, and his support gives me so much motivation,” she said. Windsurfing may take up more of Cheuk-wing’s time than basketball, but her idol is still a basketball player, US superstar Stephen Curry, who she admires for his precision when taking a shot. Alone out on the waves, windsurfing can be an isolating sport. That’s why basketball will always hold a certain appeal for Cheuk-wing.
“I like playing basketball because it involves co-operation and team work with my team members.”
Cheuk-wing has a natural talent for windsurfing, but now she is a serious international contender, she’ll have to train harder than ever before with her coach Chung Hing-lun. And putting in all those hours on the waves often brings about some unexpected situations.
“I nearly hit a duck when I was practising , but it flew away before I got too close!” she told Young Post.
Cheuk-wing’s main complaint about her busy training schedule is that she doesn’t get enough sleep. But she loves how sport benefits other areas of her life.
“Windsurfing and basketball help with concentration, as well as helping to develop analytical skills and build team spirit, and making personal development better. I want to develop together academics and sports,” she told SCMP last month.
“Perseverance is the key to success. Believe in yourself,” Chung told Cheuk-wing in Italy.
Those are words she’ll hold on to as she continues to compete, train, study, and raise her profile as an athlete.
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
A leopard. It’s such a fast runner.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
Bananas. They provide me with lots of energy very quickly.
Which fictional character would you choose as your team mate?
Harry Potter. His magical skills would be so helpful.
10 years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company are you spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
Nike for their sports clothing. I’d also be one for my school, St Stephen’s Girls’ College. The Students’ Association sponsored me and I used their “In Faith Go Forward” towel for a year. I like that towel so much. Hopefully in 10 years’ time, if I am famous, I’ll be able to help promote their products.