Taking challenge in stride

Taking challenge in stride

Two years after injuries dealt his running career a setback, Ng Ka-fung has a shot at the Olympics

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Ng Ka-fung started running in Primary Four and continued to compete through secondary school.
Ng Ka-fung started running in Primary Four and continued to compete through secondary school.
Photo: Edward Wong/SCMP
To sprinters, every 0.01second matters. Ng Ka-fung is well aware of this, after his first year of full-time professional training. With that rule in mind, the 19-year-old and three other, more experienced 100m runners hope to step up and carry Hong Kong athletics to a new level on the Olympic stage.

Ng started running in Primary Four and continued through C&MA Sun Kei Secondary School and Chong Gene Hang College. Before graduating from Form Five, he helped Chong Gene Hang win three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the Inter-School Athletics Championship two years ago.

He ended last year as the city's No 1 junior 100m runner, an achievement he credits in part to support from his family.

"They didn't have any objection when I told them I would like to turn pro last year," Ng says.

But the path to becoming a professional sprinter was filled with hurdles. In 2010, Ng suffered injuries to both his legs, something he now sees as a turning point in his development.

"I admit that I was not giving my best during training," he says. "My coach warned me to not treat my warm-up exercises as a trivial part of my routine, but I didn't pay attention."

The consequences were costly. He finished a disappointing fifth in the Asian Junior Athletics Championships and failed to qualify for the World Junior Championships in Athletics, as well as the Asian Games.

"That was a big blow for me," Ng says. "After recovering, I had a change in my mindset and always took my coach's advice. When he asked me whether I would like to turn pro, I made the decision."

Turning professional brought him closer to another big goal: qualifying for the Olympics.

"That has been my dream since I was a kid."

He moved into the athletes hostel at the Hong Kong Sports Institute and began training five days a week. He also began to work with Tsui Chi-ho, Lai Chun-ho and Tang Yik-chun, far more well-known sprinters, in the 4x100m relay.

Yet Ng didn't fear lagging behind. "They are more experienced, but I know I can do as well as them, or even better," he says.

Last July, the new team - dubbed the Fantastic Four - won a silver medal at the Asian Athletics Championships in Kobe, Japan.

Seeing the chance to qualify for the London Olympics, the four young men are pushing themselves to secure a ranking, and earlier this month, smashed the Hong Kong record with a time of 39.02 seconds at the International Invitational Relay Competition in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province.

That puts Hong Kong within striking distance of becoming one of the 16 teams to qualify for London and return to the Olympics for the first time since Sydney in 2000.

"Right now we are on the border-line and ranked 17th," he says. "We still have a few more competitions to improve our ranking," Ng says.

The sprinter still has time to qualify for the team event, but not for the individual competition. Saturday would be his last chance to make the cut, but he'll be in Wuhan , Hubei province, getting ready for the National Athletics Grand Prix Series.

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