Upon crossing the finishing line, Hong Kong teen hurdler Addis Wong Lok-hei waited for the official results with bated breath. He knew he was among the first few to complete the race, but he could not know for sure if he’d won anything until the results were displayed on the screen.
It said 13.39 seconds – he had placed third.
It was Addis’ new personal best – and the city’s first medal won by a junior athletics team at the Youth Olympic Games this year.
“I could not believe my eyes,” he said. “The result was a lot faster than my old personal best time.”
Addis said his bronze medal win in the men’s 110m hurdles event in Argentina last month had been something beyond even his wildest dreams. For almost a year before, he had not been able to beat his previous best time.
The 17-year-old, who had only aimed to finish somewhere in the top eight, ranked second after the preliminary round. It was only then that he realised he could achieve more, and he made it his new goal to earn a medal.
Knowing that he had already accomplished his initial goal of making the top eight, Addis said he had gone into the finals with a relaxed attitude, which he believed was the reason he managed to break his personal record.
“My mentality has always been a key factor in my performance. I didn’t feel like I had any weight on my shoulders during the finals, so I was able to focus on how to run faster.”
Addis did not let the fact that he was competing with the world’s best young hurdlers stress him out. Instead, he turned it into a source of motivation.
“Some hurdlers get distracted by others. I’m glad I didn’t. All I had in my mind was to keep up with the ones in front of me.”
Bringing home a shiny souvenir marked the perfect end to Addis’ journey in Buenos Aires, but it was a journey he almost did not take. This is because Addis had failed to qualify for the Games in the qualifiers in July.
“It was devastating,” he said. “I couldn’t help but wonder; ‘Am I even a right fit for the sport? Have I reached the ceiling of my athletic performance already?’”
Thankfully, Addis was given another chance to prove himself in August. Based on his Asia ranking, he was offered one of the last spots in the team heading to the Games, and he decided to get back on the horse. The bronze medal he went on to win was exactly what Addis needed to prove to himself that he’s still in the game.
The Cheung Sha Wan Catholic Secondary School student has been a sprinter since he was in Primary Five, but he did not take up hurdling until four years ago, when his school needed hurdlers at the inter-school competition. In his first-year attempt, Addis finished in fifth place, proving to his teachers and himself that he had potential.
Addis told Young Post he has a love-hate relationship with making or beating his personal best – it can be a source of distress if he doesn’t improve, but it’s also what keeps him going.
“I love how we use numbers to show progress in hurdling, it makes me feel like there is concrete proof of my hard work,” he said.
Addis is cutting down on his training to prepare for the HKDSE, which he will take in March. The Form Six student, who suffered a serious leg injury three years ago, wants to study physiotherapy at university, inspired by his own experience of being treated.
He was forced to take some time off from the sport, but said the therapist helped him though it.
“My physiotherapist wasn’t just there to take care of my injury, he also [emotionally] supported me, and made me less impatient.” And if there’s one thing Addis wants for the future, it’s to do the same for others.