Elite athletes share their moments of triumph at the Games

During a lunch gathering on 26 October 2023, four rowing medalists – Chiu Hin-chun (far right), Lam San-tung, Wong Wai-chun, Leung King-wan, from left to right from the eighth from left — share their tips on keeping physically and mentally fit, and their experiences at the 19th Asian Games to HPE students.

Council Chairman Dr David Wong Yau-kar, far right, and President Professor John Lee Chi-Kin, far left, present Letter of Appreciation to the rowing athletes: from second from left to second from right, Leung Wing-wun, Chiu Hin-chun, Wong Wai-chun and Lam San-tung.

The stellar performance of Hong Kong athletes at the 19th Asian Games and 4th Asian Para Games held in Hangzhou in September and October 2023 was nothing short of impressive. At the Asian Games, Hong Kong athletes bagged eight gold medals from a total of 53, while at the Asian Para Games, they earned a further eight gold medals out of 47 medals. At the Asian Games in particular, Hong Kong’s team set a record for the greatest number of medals, surpassing results achieved by the team in previous Games events.

EdUHK proudly sent 50 undergraduates/graduates to join the Hong Kong delegations at the two Games events in Hangzhou. Our students/alumni won a total of nine medals for Hong Kong. All EdUHK medalists hail from the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPE) at FLASS. At a lunch gathering organised by the Student Affairs Office on 26 October 2023, four medalists from the rowing team were invited to share strategies to overcome difficulties they faced during competitions, factors that led to their success at the Games, as well as tips about physical and mental wellness.

The duo, Wong Wai-chun, right, and Lam San-tung raise their hands in triumph as they win the first gold medal for the Hong Kong team at the 19th Asian Games. The HPE duo finished the race in the Men’s Pair category in six minutes and 44.20 seconds. (Photo source: Xinhua)

Rowing duo Wong Wai-chun and Lam San-tung, both current students of the Bachelor of Health Education (Honours) programme (BHE) admitted through the University’s elite-athlete nomination scheme, won a gold medal in the Men’s Pairs category, the first gold medal won by Hong Kong delegation in the 19th Games. Both first-timers at the Asian Games, Wai-chun and San-tung were overjoyed when they crossed the finish line in first place, clocking in at six minutes and 44.20 seconds.

“When the event organiser announced us as the winners, I was very happy and touched. I have been a full-time professional athlete for eight years. During those years, we made a lot of sacrifices and put in great effort to prepare for the competition. We set our goal at winning the gold medal, and we have finally been able to achieve it. It was such a wonderful experience,” said Wai-chun, backrower of the duo. His 193cm height gives him a competitive edge over others, as he is able to propel the boat further forward in one stroke.

It was an equally emotional and euphoric moment for San-tung the front-rower to know that his team won first prize. “My girlfriend and parents were watching us racing at the competition venue. It was really a dream came true when Wai-chun and I stood on the podium to receive our gold medals,” said San-tung, who has been a full-time professional athlete for 10 years.


The tears and toil behind their pinnacle moments

We need to get up at 5:30am every morning, no matter how cold or windy it is, to start the day’s training routine.


While the visualisation of their moment of glory motivates many athletes to stay the course, it is really all the tears and toil throughout their training that brings them to the pinnacle moment in their sporting careers. “We need to get up at 5:30am every morning, no matter how cold or windy it is, to start the day’s training routine. We need to follow a strict diet especially designed for our vitamin, protein and mineral needs. It does not seem that difficult if you only do it once in a while. But if it is a routine that you need to observe at all times, it becomes enormously challenging, both physically and mentally,” said San-tung.

Alumna Leung King-wan won a silver medal in the Women’s Coxless Pairs race with her teammate Cheung Hoi-lam, and placed fourth in the Women’s Coxless Four event. To King-wan as well as other top athletes, there is no magic ingredient other than hard work in becoming a world-class sportsman. This is doubly true for elite athletes like King-wan, who need to maintain their sporting and academic pursuits at the same time.

Chiu Hin-chun takes home the bronze medal in the Men’s Single Sculls category. He said, “The silver and gold medalists were among the world’s top rowing athletes. The fact that I could closely compete with them in the race meant that I have already reached the top echelon of the sport.” (Photo source: SF&OC)

Leung King-wan, left, and her teammate Cheung Hoi-lam win a silver in the Women’s Coxless Pairs race. They finished the race in seven minutes and 42 seconds. (Photo source: SF&OC)

Chiu Hin-chun, who has completed his BHE studies at HPE, is now pursuing a Master of Social Sciences in Sports Coaching and Management at the same department. He placed a close third in the Men’s Single Sculls final event. In addition to the tough training routine, the bronze medalist added that a weakening of the body’s defences as a result of high-intensity training is another challenge that top athletes must deal with. “High-intensity training sometimes causes injuries and illness. Professional athletes often struggle to maintain their physical fitness in the face of such difficulties,” Hin-chun, who was also admitted through the elite-athlete nomination scheme, said.

The University fully understands the hardships that come with being a top sportsman: schedules packed with training sessions and competitions held both locally and overseas, the need to comply with high requirements in regards to diet and rest, the risk of injury, and the extraordinarily high mental pressure once it is time to compete. At FLASS, our HPE colleagues strive to accommodate the special needs of elite athletes as much as possible to allow them to focus on their training and reduce their mental stress. In some programmes, elite athlete students are given flexibility in attending lessons, joining group projects, submitting assignments, and even taking tests and examinations.

The rowing medalists showed EdUHK great appreciation for supporting their dual roles as both professional athletes and students. “When we could not attend classes because of overseas training sessions and competitions, our teachers at EdUHK recorded the classes and taught us separately via Zoom afterwards. Many of the courses involve group projects, and our teachers allowed us to join group presentations via Zoom as well. This way, we could focus on our training and also keep pace with the programme,” San-tung said.


Learning at EdUHK expands minds

I like nutrition studies and anatomy the most, for these two subjects help me understand my nutritional needs and physical make-up.


Following a dual career development path can be challenging, but discovering the joys of academic studies can more than make up for it. San-tung said he enjoys learning at EdUHK as it has expanded his mind. “I like nutrition studies and anatomy the most, for these two subjects help me understand my nutritional needs and physical make-up. What I learn during these lessons helps me recover from injuries more efficiently and raise my athletic performance,” he said. Hin-chun said he enjoys studying at EdUHK. “Learning itself is a value-adding process, whether whatever I learn can advance my career-related goals or not,” Hin-chun said.

In about a half-year’s time, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024 will open. Like all members of various Hong Kong teams that aspire to take part in the Olympics, elite athletes at EdUHK aim to make a successful appearance on the world stage of sports. To secure a place to compete in the Olympics, Wong Wai-chun, Lam San-tung, Chiu Hin-chun and other elite athletes at EdUHK are making thorough preparations for a range of qualification events. The pressure to perform their best looms large over them.

As an elite-athlete-friendly university, EdUHK and HPE take it as a matter of utmost priority to accommodate the special learning needs of our elite athletes. Teachers and programme supporting staff at EdUHK go the extra mile to help and facilitate their pursuit of a dual development pathway. We know their challenges, and celebrate their moments of triumph. We will always support them as they take their long and challenging journeys to glory.