Tokyo Olympics 2020: Hong Kong Athletes You Should Know
This year’s Olympic Games kick off this month—here are some of the athletes representing Hong Kong you should know
This year’s Summer Olympic Games will be like no other. Having been postponed by one year, the global sporting event will also impose a new set of rules upon its participants to ensure the Olympic village doesn’t become a hotbed of Covid-19 infection. There will be no talking during meals, no athlete mingling, no trips to restaurants or use of public transport, and the decision whether to allow local spectators was delayed until the end of June. As of late May, there were even calls from Japanese citizens to cancel the games and halt the influx of an estimated 80,000 people into a country with the lowest rate of vaccinations among developed nations.
Since first competing in the games in 1952, Hong Kong has won three medals: bronze by cyclist Lee Wai-sze for keirin in 2012, silver by Lo Lai-chak and Li Ching in men’s doubles table tennis in 2004, and Lee Lai-shan’s (aka San San’s) famous gold in mistral sailboarding, or windsurfing, in 1996. The city’s sports fans have high hopes for podium places at this year’s games because Hong Kong is entering a record number of contenders. Most notable is the high number of women competing, a demonstration of the city’s sports programmes’ growing strength and engagement with young women.
While additional athletes will qualify right up to the start of the games, here are some of the Hong Kong competitors to watch out for at this year’s Olympics, held from July 23 to August 8.
Sarah Lee Wai-Sze
This will likely be the final games for veteran track cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze, who is one of the city’s strongest podium hopes in Tokyo after her bronze in London, where she was also the Hong Kong flag bearer. The 35-year-old, a full-time athlete for 16 years, has countless gold medals to her name, spanning the Asian Games, Asian Cycling Championships and the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics, and holds Asian records in time trial events.
She says: “To compete at such a unique event is a milestone in itself. You don’t even need to think about medals and things. Doing the best I can in this environment will mean I have already succeeded.”
Jessica Lee Hoi-Yan
Jessica Lee Hoi-yan’s Olympic story begins in Tokyo, and the 30-year-old track cyclist is confident she can deliver at the Izu Velodrome after spending winter training and sleeping alongside other Olympic hopefuls in the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s Fo Tan bubble facility. The Hong Kong-born athlete, who moved to Glasgow when she was 11 and returned to represent her birth city in her sport as an adult, gained her first World Cup podium finish in 2019 after having only taken up track cycling aged 24.
She says: “This is going to be my first Olympics, so I’m not going to get too ahead of myself. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Stone Shek Wai-Hung
The aptly named Stone Shek Wai-hung will be representing his hometown on the vault in gymnastics at his second games after his debut in London. Despite not qualifying for Rio de Janeiro due to injury, the two-time Asian Games gold medallist has since recovered his strength and form and had solid podium results over the past several years.
He says: “I just want to perform to the best of my ability, keep fighting and go on to higher achievements.”
Twenty-year-old Stephanie Norton will be one of the elite athletes heading to the Enoshima Yacht Harbour near Yokohama for the Olympic sailing regatta. Norton, a full-time athlete who began her journey into the sport at the Hebe Haven Yacht Club in Sai Kung, made history when she became the first female single-handed dinghy sailor from Hong Kong to qualify for the Olympics after finishing third at the Mussanah Open Championships in Oman in April.
She says: “I’m super excited to have the opportunity to represent Hong Kong in Tokyo. It’s been a long time since someone in sailing, other than windsurfing, has qualified. The lead-up to the qualification event has been quite challenging, so it still feels unreal that I get to go to the Olympics.”
Thomas Heffernan Ho
Bringing home Hong Kong’s first eventing Olympic medal has been Thomas Heffernan Ho’s dream since the 2008 Beijing Olympics equestrian events were staged
in Hong Kong. Eventing, “the triathlon of the equestrian world”, involves dressage, showjumping and cross country, and Ho, 31, is the first Hong Kong rider ever to have qualified for the Olympics. His horse Tayberry, impressively, is 20 years old.
He says: “The silver lining is that the extra year has given me time to prepare and build up my physical and mental strength.”
After representing Hong Kong in 2016 in Rio, 23-year-old Siobhan Haughey will make her Olympic return this year in five categories: 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, and the 4 x 100m and 200m freestyle relays. The Hong Kong-Irish swimming star, who has her own line of swimwear and is training to become a child psychologist, had a smashing start to 2021, breaking her own Hong Kong record for 200m freestyle and reaching the world’s third-fastest time of the year at an April time trial.
She says: “If I can get a medal, of course that would be great. I know this is my second Olympics but I also don’t want to give myself too much pressure because if I overthink it, that’s when I underperform. So I just want to go in, stay calm, relaxed, but also enjoy the whole experience.”
Stephanie Au Hoi-Shun
Three-time Olympian and 2016 Hong Kong flag bearer Stephanie Au Hoi-shun will compete in her fourth games this year in the women’s 100m backstroke, and in the 4 x 100m and 200m freestyle relays with Haughey. Aged 29, the part-time model will give it her all in what she says will be her last games. She holds multiple Hong Kong records in freestyle and backstroke in both short and long course events.
She says: “I always work towards the motto of ‘I can do it.’”
The unstoppable Oscar Coggins may be one of Hong Kong’s dark horse medal chances in Tokyo, according to local sports pundits. The city’s top triathlete, ranked 47th in the world and third in Asia, will be one of 55 men completing a 1,500-metre swim, a 40km bike ride and then a 10km run at Odaiba Marine Park. He claimed his spot in April after coming fourth at the Asian Triathlon Championship in Hatsukaichi, Japan.
He says: “I’m confident I can bring the form I’m experiencing in each individual sport together in competition this year.”
Grace Lau Mo-Sheung
Imagine competing as a foreigner in the country where your sport originated and with which it remains closely associated. That’s the daunting task that lies ahead
for Grace Lau Mo-sheung, who qualified for the Olympics with karate, one of the five new medal programmes for Tokyo. Lau will be fighting in the kata event, which judges competitors on power and precision. These games will be crucial for the world’s karatekas: the martial art will not be included at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
She says: “If we can’t compete again in Paris 2024, Tokyo remains the only chance for an Olympic medal, which we must treasure.”
Doo Hoi-Kem and Wong Chun-Ting
Asian countries dominate table tennis globally, with top-ranked China boasting 53 Olympic medals to date. One of only three sports in which Hong Kong has won Olympics medals, table tennis represents a reasonable podium bet this year. The city will be sending six athletes to Tokyo, and its strongest hopes lie with Doo Hoi-kem (below right) and Wong Chun-ting, who will compete alone, together as a mixed doubles pair and within single-sex teams.
Over the last several years, Doo and Wong have forged an ironclad dynamic within the world of ping pong, earning admiration for wins in competitions all around the world. Together, they are ranked fourth in the world and will have their sights set on building upon Hong Kong’s 2004 silver in Athens. Hong Kong will certainly be flexing its strength in this year’s games: also heading to Tokyo are Ho Kwan-kit and Lam Siu-hang in the men’s team and singles, and Lee Ho-ching and Soo Wai-yam in the women’s team and singles. The squad is also the city’s first fully home-grown Olympic team after Hong Kong sent mainland China-born players in the past.
Hayley Chan Hei-Man
London 2012 gave Hayley Chan Hei-man her first Olympic outing—a year later, she was ranked second in the world in the RS:X class. The 30-year-old windsurfer narrowly missed out on qualification in 2016 and considered quitting her sport until a pep talk from a former secondary school teacher helped her find her motivation again. Over the past nine years, Chan has broadened her experience as a surfer, picked up gold at the 2014 Asian Games, and has trained hard with her team in Stanley. If anyone can continue San San’s legacy, it’s Chan.
She says: “The important thing is how I’ll deliver my performance on the day, especially in the Olympics when it’s going to be a lot more tense. Sometimes, I care too much about results and it throws my game plan into disarray. The chance is always there in Tokyo.”
Michael Cheung Chun-Leung
Making his second Olympic attempt after placing eighth in the 2016 games, Michael Cheng Chun-leung will surf the RS:X board once again for Hong Kong in Tokyo. Cheng, 27, bagged silver at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. But his best year to date was 2019, when he came second in the Asian Windsurfing Championships and won the Trofeo Princesa Sofía, an annual regatta in Mallorca. Whether the extra year’s training was a help or a hindrance for Cheng will become clear when he takes to the waves in the Enoshima Yacht Harbour this month.
He says: “Life is all about the journey, and the journey of the Olympic campaign is always full of sweat, tears and lots of ups and downs.”
Vivian Kong Man-Wai
Hong Kong has an eight-strong fencing team for Tokyo but its greatest expectations lie on Vivian Kong Man-wai, a powerhouse on the piste. The 27-year-old will mask up as part of the women’s épée individual and team events. In 2019, she was ranked world No 1 and became the first Hongkonger to win a World Cup title, when she did so in Havana, preceded by an Asian Championship win a year earlier in Bangkok. Last year, Kong was still wrangling with a knee injury that struck after her 2019 victory, and this Olympics will be a test of whether her diligence in training and recovery has paid off. Joining her in Tokyo will be fellow fencers Lawrence Ng Lok-wang, Cheung Ka-long, Cheung Siu-lung, Ryan Choi Chun-yin, Kaylin Hsieh Sin-yan and Coco Lin Yik-hei.
She says: “A year without competitions has helped me focus on learning and being creative about fencing, rather than being stressed out about my results at every competition. I can’t wait. I think I will be super nervous but I tell myself that I’m just excited. I really want to do well and bring some good news back home.”