In perfect Nic

In perfect Nic

Kevin Kung meets a sprinter who's on track for a modelling career

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Runner model Nic Ho_L
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP
On track, Nic Ho Ping-kwan is a very quick sprinter. Off the track, he might need those skills to keep ahead of mobs of screaming fans, because in his spare time Nic is a model for Abercrombie & Fitch.

As last year's top-ranked junior 100m runner, the muscular 19-year-old achieved a lot of success on the track, including winning the 4x100m relay bronze medal with his teammates at Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Sri Lanka in June.

But what made 2012 truly spectacular for Nic was his glamorous new part-time job - his impressive physique got him hired by the American outfitter brand A&F as a shirtless model in November.

Nic, a Form Six student at Chong Gene Hang College, says: "I was approached by two managers of the brand at a Mong Kok mall, who invited me to a casting as a shirtless model. But I worried that my body wasn't good enough, and that my family and girlfriend might not support me, so I refused.

"I was very shy. I study in a boys' school and didn't really know how to communicate with girls," he adds.

Nic got a job as a sales assistant at the A&F flagship store in Central. After the grand opening in August, he was assigned to serve customers at the entrance. "The brand has many fans, and many are teenage girls. I saw how happy and excited they were when visiting our shop, and I was stunned," he says.

When a group of foreign shirtless hunks visited Hong Kong in the summer, the streets were filled with teenage girls, screaming after meeting the handsome guys. When they left, Nic was again offered the chance to be a model - and, with his socialising skills gained at the store, he had enough courage to apply.

But he still had to win a seal of approval from his family and girlfriend Yuki, who works part-time at Hollister.

"My mum is open-minded and she was fine with it. But Yuki had reservations at first. While she thought the shirtless models at A&F and Hollister were attractive, she hesitated about her own boyfriend taking up the job," says Nic.

"In the end, she gave me the green light - and promised she wouldn't come to peek at me."

Nic didn't only undergo changes to his job title and dress code. Shirtless models at A&F have to welcome visitors and take photos with them on request. He was tested to see if he could keep his smile and remain energetic for hours.

"At first, I was shocked when I saw some female fans bringing banners to support their favourite model. They'd come looking for their favourite guys when they were on duty," says Nic.

"Seeing all this gave me a better understanding of girls, though. I became more sociable and not afraid to chat with fans. Now I have a few fans of my own."

Nic is the youngest of fewer than a dozen local A&F models. His wages for each five-hour shift are several times what he earned in sales. As well as the extra money, the job motivates him to keep in shape.

"I love going to the gym regularly because I'm a runner. But my job, means I have to exercise every weekday," Nic says.

At A&F, Nic greets visitors with some well-practised taglines, a skill he honed after having lessons from colleagues to improve his English.

The biggest challenge isn't dealing with squealing, or smiling all day, but the reaction of his mum's friends. "These 'aunties' are very traditional, so they were shocked when they first saw me at the shop. Luckily my cousin, who works in TV, told them my job is not abnormal. She said she was really proud of me, as this isn't something everyone can do. Now I have their support, so I'm really glad," he says.

Nic hopes to develop his modelling career. "A number of A&F models gained fame and became full-time models. I'd like to follow that path some day, but I guess that will come after university, or when I retire from sprinting," he says.

"But right now I'm still keen to achieve more in my sport."

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