Three years ago, Hong Kong gymnast Kelvin Ng Kiu-chung was on the path to becoming the city’s next big athlete – but it all came to a screeching halt after the “Prince of Still Rings” tore his shoulder.
What followed were a nightmarish couple of years of surgery and rehabilitation, but the 25-year-old – who lives by the mantra “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – is currently gearing up for an epic comeback.
“I will survive … I will be stronger after everything,” says the 2015/16 Hong Kong Gymnastics Open and Novice Championship gold medallist, adding he tore a ligament in his right knee a year into his rehabilitation. “That was the hardest time for me.”
Prior to his extended layoff, Ng made sure his name will (quite literally) go down in history after developing two new elements for his craft, the still rings.
Ng submitted two self-created elements – named NG Kiu Chung (HKG) and NG Kiu Chung 2 (HKG) – to the International Federation of Gymnastics Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee. “I’m really proud of that,” Ng reveals. “It’s pretty cool. Some people who train in gymnastics will know about these elements. Some of them may even try to use them!”
Ng also made Hong Kong history in the 2010 Artistic Gymnastics FIG World Cup when he became the first Hongkonger ever to win an international medal. “That was a big moment for me, as I didn’t really believe in myself, and no-one else believed in us [Hongkongers].”
But that belief has always been there for Ng and his coach of 14 years, Sergiy Agafontsev. They are preparing for the world university games in Taiwan next month.
“My strategy is to relax, try to make it to the final, and see what happens. I won many of my previous medals this way,” says Ng. “The level [in Taiwan] will be similar to the world championships, and one of the rings specialists from Brazil is an Olympic champion. It will be fun.”
Ng shows us a dazzling routine
“I always believed he could recover,” says the Ukrainian Agafontsev. “If he couldn’t do it one day, I’d say “let’s do it tomorrow”. It’s about patience. Now, I believe he can get a medal.” When the two met, Ng’s coach didn’t have great expectations: “He was just a kid; he wanted to play. But he started to like the still rings because he liked to train fitness and power.”
Ng is now one of the most established gymnasts in the city, and throughout his years of training and travelling, has held onto a piece of his coach’s advice wherever he goes.
“He always told me to be a man,” says Ng. “It’s how I survive and get better.”
Ng’s dedication and perseverance is impressive enough as it is, but he says he is striving for more. “I’m a full time student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong,” he reveals.
“I study sports medicine. I haven’t thought about my future much, but I knew I wanted to study in between training.”
Ng has already completed a sports management degree at Hong Kong Baptist University, and is certain that his studies will not affect his journey to the top.
“I want to medal at a major games [tournament], like the university games of the Asian Games next year. It seems like every time I go to the Asian Games, I don’t perform well. I want to change that, then I’d like to qualify for the Olympics,” says the self-professed “Hong Kong Lord of the Rings”.
Whatever you want to call him, Ng is the real deal. Let’s support his comeback trail!
What is your favourite thing to eat before an event?
Chocolate. It gives me energy and makes me feel calm.
Do you have any superstitions before an event?
I always visit the stadium beforehand. Right before the event, my coach will ask me if I’m ready. I’ll jokingly say “not yet” – right up until the moment I begin my performance.
Who do you look up to in your sport?
There are some gymnasts I appreciate, like Chinese gymnast Chen Yibing and Japan’s Kohei Ichimura. They make their performances look so easy, though I’m sure they spend a lot of time and effort in training. Ichimura once said; “If you want to be number one in the world, you have to be number one in working hard.”
Edited by Ginny Wong
Watch Ng flip a YP junior reporter upside-down