Jason “Hardcastle” Tai-long Ng went from “barely” knowing how to swim to becoming one of Hong Kong’s top triathletes in just three years.
“Funny story: I used to be a footballer back at Yew Chung International School, and one day the school asked me to run cross-country,” said the 18-year-old.
“I did really well and they told me I should start running seriously and find a proper coach.”
Jason found coach Andrew Wright, who encouraged him to try triathlon – a multiple-stage race typically involving running, cycling and swimming. Despite having practically no cycling or swimming experience, he did exceptionally well in his first race.
He said he’s been in love with the sport ever since. “After seeing that I had talent and how much I enjoyed it, I decided, ‘I’m going to give this all I’ve got’,” he said.
Amazingly, this all happened just three years ago; and after just two years of what he called “serious training”, Jason has become one of Hong Kong’s top young prospects.
However, he didn’t turn elite overnight – Jason said his sudden rise to prominence was a result of “training relentlessly” every day of the week.
“When I first started racing, I was really weak in the pool, so I would swim eight times a week,” Jason said. “This was in addition to five to six running and cycling training sessions a week. The training schedule was, and still is, absolutely brutal.”
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Jason said he has a love-hate relationship with his training. “It can be so awful at times and it takes up all of my time, and requires so much sacrifice. I basically have to give up all social activities,” he said.
“But at the same time, I gain energy and happiness from being pushed to the limit, and just absolutely gritting my teeth and slogging through a hard race or training session. It has given me an extremely strong mindset.”
Jason is coming off an incredible year in which he finished eighth in the 2017 Triathlon Asian Championships, and is hoping to keep improving his performances, with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games.
He has now left school and is studying for his A-Levels part time so that he can focus on his training. Jason wants to become an engineer when he is older, but will focus on ensuring he gets the most out of his career as a triathlete.
“Even if I never make it to the Olympics, I just want to make sure I reach my potential so I am not filled with regret,” he explained.
Almost as much as he wants to further his own career, Jason also hopes to encourage more young Hongkongers to try the sport.
“Give it a go,” he advised young athletes.
“I wish I had started sooner. It’s so much better than just training for a single sport. I always love that when I’m sick of swimming, the next [moment] I’m out on a bike looking at scenery.
“[And] if you get injured [in one sport] you can always train for something else; and of course, it’s a great way to keep fit.”
He added, however, that to become elite requires a very strong mindset. “You must be truly driven towards your dreams, and it really takes a lot of sacrifice but it’s definitely doable,” said Jason. “Once you’ve made those sacrifices and you’ve achieved your dream, you’ll realise it was all worth it.”