Roller freestyle skater Anson Chan Man-fung has written his name in the history books of his sport: he is the first Hong Kong athlete to win a medal at the World Championships.
At the age of 14, Anson came second in the youth speed slalom race at the 2013 World Roller Freestyle Skating Championships in Taiwan in November. The event requires an athlete to cross, with one foot, a line of 20 cones placed 80 centimetres apart.
The Form Three student from HKUGA College has regular practice with his club, Kanata Roller Skating Association, and with the Hong Kong team every weekend. Thanks to his achievement in the highest-ranked tournament in the sport, he became the youngest among the six winners of the Samsung 2013 Hong Kong Junior Sports Stars Awards. The prizes were presented last month.
Anson said winning the top honour in the Hong Kong sports community was unbelievable. "The MC that night spoke my name at the start and I was still wondering if that was just a list of all nominees," he says. "I just couldn't believe it."
And yet the rising star on wheels will not stop there. He wants to go one step further - to be the first SAR athlete to stand on top of the podium at the World Championships. His current best time for the speed slalom is about 4.5 seconds.
The youth races are for athletes aged 16 or under, so Anson's best chances will be the two upcoming World Championships: in Paris in October this year, and then back in Asia in 2015.
"I took part in four World Championships before Taiwan last year. I was average and didn't really stand out. I would say I've had some luck to become a top junior athlete," says Anson, who will now receive support from the Hong Kong Sports Institute. "But the victory at the Worlds triggered my desire for more. I want to become a world champion, and I'm setting my sights on the 2015 championships as my main rivals will be over-age. As I have a stronger physique and fitness than younger athletes, I'm confident I can win with my experience."
Roller freestyle skating is actually a branch of roller sport, and athletes usually compete in three events: the speed slalom, single or pair freestyle slalom and freestyle slide.
Anson started at the age of eight, when his cousin Ma Ka-hong joined a leisure class in Kwun Tong. After years of training, the two cousins are top skaters in the 852. They are rivals, but also team up for the pair freestyle slalom.
Anson, who also represents his school as a sprinter, has the genes to excel in speed slalom, the event that won him silver at the Worlds. His favourite, however, is the freestyle slalom.
"I like to hear the breeze passing my ears in the speed slalom race, but I love freestyle slalom more. I can showcase my creativity with my own tricks, with background music I've picked," he says.
Choy Ka-chai, Anson's coach with the Hong Kong team and also at Kanata, praised his student.
"Anson is full of creativity and this differentiates him from other athletes in the freestyle slalom. Also, in the speed slalom, athletes need to run for 12 metres before crossing the cones. His fast pace and excellent skills contributed to his success," says Choy. "Frankly I didn't expect him to go so far in the World Championships. Our target was to enter the top eight to help him gain points and qualify for funds from the Sports Institute. That was unexpected and now we will fight for the world title together."