Pedals to the metal on a bike

Pedals to the metal on a bike

Cyclist who has set his sights on gold medal glory, is training hard to reach goals

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At just 18, Johnny Cheung Joy-lai is an important part of Hong Kong's medal-winning cyclist team. He trains around the clock.
At just 18, Johnny Cheung Joy-lai is an important part of Hong Kong's medal-winning cyclist team. He trains around the clock.
Photo: Kevin Kung
On TV, it looks so easy. Hong Kong cyclists race to victory, winning medals. Then they beam proudly on the podium.

Yet ask Johnny Cheung Joy-lai, and he'll tell you it's not as easy as it looks. He's a new member of the Hong Kong Cycling Team. Head coach Shen Jin-kang calls him a "future cycling star".

Johnny joined Hong Kong Team and became a professional track cycler at the age of 17 last summer after completing his HKCEE. Since then he's been on a punishing routine. Right before the Asian Games he travelled to Kunming in Yunnan province on the mainland for high-altitude "plateau training".

"We had a very physically demanding training regimen, which boosted the whole team's form and fitness before the Asian Games," Johnny said. "I became much stronger and my form improved a lot."

The 18-year-old teenager later joined the Hong Kong delegation of cyclers at Guangzhou just before the Asian Games.

He was not there to compete, though. Johnny was on another mission. "I was assigned to train with my teammate Lee Wai-sze at Guangzhou for the 500m Time Trial event at the Games," he explained. "Normally we only have one person on the track for this event, but our coaches decided to have two cyclists chasing each other on the track in training to motivate us."

The trick worked. Lee Wai-sze won gold in the event at the Games for Hong Kong. Head coach Shen told Young Post that Johnny deserves some credit for Wai-sze's success. " The public only sees the victory of the medalists and does not know about the unsung heroes who helped make it happen," the coach said. "I appreciate Johnny's and other cyclists' efforts to let the team shine in Guangzhou."

With his busy schedule, Johnny spent almost all of the second half of 2010 overseas. This year he has had barely more than a week in Hong Kong. It took Young Post nearly half a year to catch up with him on his home turf.

His long absences often make him feel homesick, Johnny said. "We are on a very tight and hectic schedule," he said. "Plans can change fast and we might have to pack up and leave on short notice."

Whenever he is in Hong Kong, he makes sure to spend some quality time with his parents.

"With my mom and dad, we usually go out to a tea house or a steak house for big meals together," he said. "We also hug a lot, which is something we cannot do on Facebook or Skype when I am away from home."

He knows he has a long way to go yet to reach his full potential in the sport. He also knows it will be a rocky road ahead at times.

"I know I have plenty of challenge ahead of me to become a champion," the young athlete said.

He recalls an incident during a race when a Polish cyclist tried to sabotage the progress of the Hong Kong team by cutting in front of them repeatedly, causing a mass crash.

"He brought everyone down on the track," Johnny said. "I was very angry. It took me some time to calm down."

He did recover his mettle and carry on, though.

To him, professional cycling is not just "training, competition, training and then competition again." It is something that gives him lofty goals to aim for.

"Even before a race I like to imagine that I have already won the gold," he said. "I need to tell myself I can do it. That's how I can become a champion at the Asian Games or even the Olympics."

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