Living the Olympic dream

Living the Olympic dream

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(Top) Lok Kwan-hoi and Leung Chun-shek; (bottom left) So Sau-wah; (bottom right) Yip Pui-yin.
(Top) Lok Kwan-hoi and Leung Chun-shek; (bottom left) So Sau-wah; (bottom right) Yip Pui-yin.
Photos: Kevin Kung/SCMP
The Hong Kong delegation to the London Olympic Games now has about 30 members, and for some events like swimming and athletics, the qualifying period hasn't ended. Kevin Kung talks to four 2012 Olympians about their feelings and prospects ahead of the upcoming Games

Name: Lok Kwan-hoi
Age: 25
Name: Leung Chun-shek
Age: 26
Event: Rowing - men's lightweight double sculls
Olympic experience: None

Chris Perry, the Hong Kong rowing team's head coach, described Lok and Leung as "the pair with the best chemistry" after many trial pair-ups. In the 2008 Olympics, So Sau-wah and Chow Kwong-wing represented Hong Kong in this event.

Lok and Leung have been paired up for six years, and after many partner swaps last year, they were rated the fittest pair to fight for a slot in London. "We argued a lot in the beginning since we were totally different in our skills. But in the past two years we have had a better partnership as we have become more mature and synchronised in rhythm and paddling," says Leung.

Lok described the qualifying race in South Korea as extremely nerve-racking. "I was so nervous that I kept repeating the plans for the race with Leung as I was afraid that things may go wrong. My mind was empty right after the race since I put all my focus on it. It is unbelievable that we can go to London for this big event," says Lok. The pair said they wanted to finish the race within 6 minutes 25 seconds, which is 5 seconds faster than their personal best.

Since the first race is on the day after the opening ceremony, Perry has reservations about his rowers attending the extravaganza. But Lok and Leung insist they want to attend this once-in-a-lifetime experience. "We will have insomnia that night if the head coach doesn't let us go," they declare.

Name: So Sau-wah
Age: 26
Event: Rowing - men's single sculls (M1X)
Olympic experience: Athens and Beijing

This is the third Olympic Games for So, but his first time in a solo event. In previous Olympics, So partnered Lo Ting-wai (in 2004) and Chow Kwong-wing (in 2008) to compete in the men's lightweight double sculls event.

So and Chow were a top pairing in the men's lightweight double sculls, and the duo won a gold medal at the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong and a silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. But the partnership broke up when Chow had to undergo surgery for a serious back injury. This gave So the chance to try something new, so he entered the open weight category single race. He won entry to the Olympics at the qualifiers in South Korea in April.

So wants to seize every opportunity to test his abilities. "I will head to the World Rowing Championships in Bulgaria right after the Olympics. I will do my best to overtake as many rowers as I can at the Games and treat it as a warm-up for the World Championships," he says. "I miss the time when I raced with my partner Chow - he would always share my worries and pressures, but now I have to deal with obstacles alone."

Name: Yip Pui-yin
Age: 24
Event: Badminton - women's singles
Olympic experience: Beijing

Four years ago, many people had high expectations for the Doha Asian Games silver medallist. But Yip lost to England's veteran Tracey Hallam in the opening round at the Beijing Olympics. This year, Yip is preparing for a tougher challenge.

"The London Games has introduced a new format for badminton events. Players are required to complete the group stage first and only the top player in each group can proceed to the knock-out stage. It will be tough for me as I am unseeded and I may meet the top players in the group," says Yip.

Yip suffered an ankle injury last year and didn't achieve great results following the Guangzhou Asian Games, where she won a bronze medal. Now she is fit again and will be training in Hong Kong for six hours a day, six days a week.

"The pressure is always on me but I often tell myself that I should have no regrets no matter the results if I get all the preparatory work done," says Yip.

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