There are some sports that everyone gets to try at school, and there are others that few will have the chance to experience – like steeplechase. Kei Fjelddahl, from South Island School, hadn’t raced the steeplechase before last October at the Hong Kong Age Group Championships; but, luckily, he discovered he was a natural. He came first in the 2000-metre race with a time of 7:02.42, breaking the Hong Kong record along the way.
By that point, Kei was an experienced track and cross country athlete, but it was his first time competing in the challenging event, in which runners push their legs to the limit jumping over hurdles and water.
Kei was nervous beforehand, but stuck to his training plan and made sure he took rest days to recharge his muscles. He tells Young Post that during the punishing race, “I almost gave up.
“But hearing my teammate say ‘I’m gonna face-plant the first hurdle’ helped me relax a little.”
Placing first is a familiar feeling for the athlete, who trains and races with the Athletic Veterans of Hong Kong (Avohk). Just a little more than a month after his steeplechase victory, he won the B Grade race at the Hong Kong Inter-School Cross-Country Competition (Division 1), held at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
“I’ve had a lot of achievements,” he says when asked which win he’d rate as his greatest success. “Breaking the age group record for 2000m steeplechase was satisfying, but if I had to choose one, I would say being able to represent Hong Kong in a Track and Field competition held in China, as well as coming top in HKSSF Cross Country.”
Kei, now 15, started doing athletics when he was in Year Nine. He had already won several school cross country races, so his mum, also a runner, suggested he gave it a go.
Like many runners, Kei takes a lone wolf mindset when it comes to his sport: he likes that he only needs to focus on and compete with himself. “People say that running is 99 per cent mental, and when I run in a race, I really think that saying is very true. Unlike team sports, you can’t depend on others, and all the effort you put in reflects a lot in your result.”
But this means that the athlete alone bears the weight of any mistakes or results he perceives as failure. “The most obvious challenge is when you don’t get a better time; it really is mentally tough, and it is very challenging to overcome that,” he says, revealing that reading is one of his favourite ways to unplug from the intense mindset of training and racing.
Now, Kei is looking forward to moving up to the A Grade in cross country and athletics, and continuing his winning streak among tougher competition. One day, he hopes to compete in Japan. To get there, he’ll bear former South Island School athletics star Hideo Harry Loasby in mind. “I look up to him and all he’s achieved. He’s very admirable,” Kei says.
What song/movie title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
An elephant – they can sense who is approaching them through the soles of their feet.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
Mom’s handmade Nigiri sushi.
Which fictional character would you choose as your team mate?
10 years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company are you spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?