Pro skills for junior pair
Unlike kung fu, there is no Shaolin Temple where rowers can go to upgrade their skills. But 18-year-olds Tang Tsz-hau and Fung Tik-lam had the chance to leave their training base in Fo Tan and skip a few levels to meet rowing 'masters' from other Asian countries in Chungju, South Korea, last month.
The two lucky Hong Kong team rowers - who are scholarship athletes at the Hong Kong Sports Institute for a year - grabbed the opportunity to represent the city at a training camp for Olympic rowers from April 15-25. But they had no idea how advanced the training would be.
'We were told that this training camp was for top junior athletes in Asia. The expenses were covered by the IOC [International Olympic Committee], but upon arrival in Chungju, we found that Hong Kong was the only team sending junior athletes,' says Tsz-hau, a Form Five student from Lam Tai Fai College.
Since a qualification event for Asian teams for this summer's London Olympics was held right after the training camp, many teams decided to send older athletes who were in the running for a place in the multi-sport showpiece instead. Most rowers in the camp were of a higher class than the two teenagers from Hong Kong.
During the 10 days of training, both of them had time trials with their camp mates. Tsz-hau, who is a top rower in Hong Kong, saw the gap between himself and the rowers at Olympics level.
'In the 2,000 metre trial, the top two finishers had a 15-second lead over me. This sent me a clear message that I still need to work very hard to close the gap and compete against them when I become a senior,' says Tsz-hau, who usually needs 7 minutes and 40 seconds to complete the distance under normal conditions.
Tik-lam said the training was beneficial. 'Besides talking to top rowers who I didn't know before, the training helped me strengthen my skills in two-oared sculling. I am used to training and competing in single-oared sweeping. I haven't decided on my fixed style yet, but the camp offered me the chance to pick up the [double-oared] style,' says the Form Five student from Jockey Club Ti-I College.
Observation was another key part of training for the duo in Chungju. 'After the first three days, more teams who joined the Olympic qualifying event arrived. The whole river channel was filled with rowing boats and on the shore you could tell how busy they were, preparing for the important [upcoming] races,' says Tsz-hau.
With the training camp and its many lessons behind them, Tsz-hau and Tik-lam have a busy summer ahead. They will take part in the Asia Cup next month and are very likely to join the 2012 World Rowing Junior and Senior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in August. They may also go to the Asian Junior Rowing Championships in Nanchang , China.
The two rowers will do their best to make a big splash in these tournaments.