As Andrew Fung O-long clapped the excess chalk off his hands, he stepped onto the safety mat in the horizontal bar area and was on tenterhooks waiting for the judges’ signal to start. There were other events underway in the competition hall, but everyone’s eyes were on this rising gymnastics star.
Andrew had already won three out of the four individual events in the Boys’ Grade A category. He came out on top in vault, parallel bars and floor exercise, and all he needed was one more gold medal from the horizontal bar event to complete his sweep and claim the all-round champion.
The 17-year-old executed his routine perfectly, completing several turns and giants (where the gymnast starts in a handstand position and rotates 360 degrees around the bar, with their body fully extended), and finally sticking his dismount. His superb performance helped him seize the fourth individual title, making him the most decorated athlete at this year’s Interschool Gymnastics Competition.
Speaking to Young Post at the tournament held at Ma On Shan Sports Centre last month, the Pui Ching Middle School student said all he thought about was executing each move correctly – winning four gold medals and an individual trophy were like a bonus to him.
“I have been practising my routines for a very long time, so I’m just happy that I managed to meet my usual standard,” he said. “Winning all four events was indeed a surprise.”
Looking back on the beginning of his journey, the teen gymnast, who has been in the sport for almost 14 years, said his passion for gymnastics is still growing. He added that he can’t get enough of the feeling the gravity-defying tumbles and spins give him, and how beautiful the sport can be.
“I’m an artistic person and I’m always mesmerised by the beauty of gymnastics, as we need to coordinate our body and showcase our strength at the same time,” he said. “When I launch myself into the air, that feeling is so unique, you cannot find it in other sports.”
Given that he had already achieved such outstanding results in his first year of competing in Grade A, the Form Five student said he is under no pressure to defend his throne next year, as he may miss out on the interschool event if it clashes with the HKDSE.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be in my best shape around this time next year because of the HKDSE, I know I will keep training, but I will also cut back on my training hours a lot,” he said.
The reigning interschool champion has been a member of the national junior squad since he was in Primary Five, and now he has to train 15 hours a week. While the teenager has a lot on his plate, Andrew said things are still well in hand, but he acknowledges the need for a break from time to time.
“I don’t feel satisfied unless I follow my timetable closely. But I realised that is quite exhausting, so I’m learning to leave some wiggle room for myself,” he said.
While most students in Hong Kong are enjoying their two month-long summer vacation, Andrew has no time to slack off as he has another major tournament to take on. He is setting off to Shanxi, China today for the 2nd National Youth Games, but his recent ankle and knee injury could stand in his way of making it to the final round in the four individual events.
“I would say I have recovered 60 per cent of my strength, but I still have to wait and see how I feel when I’m in China,” he said. “The competition will be intense, since Chinese gymnasts are so strong, but I still aim at getting into the finals.”