'Becalmed' windsurfer carries on regardless
This summer's London Games may be the last time we see windsurfing at an Olympics, but rising star Aaron Ng Wing-cheung is determined to stay in the sport.
The International Sailing Federation dropped windsurfing from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and replaced it with kiteboarding earlier this year.
Hong Kong windsurfers are disappointed to lose the chance to compete at the prestigious event. It also hits the sport's development in the city, where local windsurfers can compete against the world's best - Hong Kong's Lee Lai-shan won gold at the 1996 Games.
One final chance to reverse the decision comes in November, at the federation's annual meeting. But Aaron, 15, a member of Hong Kong's junior team, will carry on regardless.
'After training for years, I know I love the sport very much,' says Aaron, a student at Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, in Wan Chai, who trains off Stanley's main beach at weekends, and at the Hong Kong Sports Institute during the week. 'Windsurfing may not be in the Games, but I can still compete in events such as the Asian Championships, Asian Games and World Championships,' he says.
'I don't really know much about kiteboarding [a sport where surfers are propelled while holding on to a kite], and I am not sure if I'll try it in future, but I won't quit [windsurfing] because of this bad news.'
Aaron will compete in August's Techno 293 World Championships, in the Netherlands, with the target of gaining a top-eight place.
Aaron was at primary school with windsurfer Michael Cheng Chun-leung, the reigning Youth Olympic silver medallist, and both were part of their school's swimming team. 'Michael started windsurfing in Primary One or Two, with my other Hong Kong junior teammates. But I started in Primary Five,' Aaron says.
It took Aaron five years, from being a leisure windsurfer to join the Hong Kong team in January last year. But his lack of experience - and understandable nerves - meant he failed to make the team for last year's Techno 293 Junior World Championships, in San Francisco, United States. 'I think I was nervous because I hadn't competed in any overseas competitions before,' he says.
Yet this year he finally made his international debut - at January's Techno 293 Asian Championships in Pattaya, Thailand, where he won the silver medal. His success earned him the sport institute's quarterly Sports for Hope Foundation Outstanding Junior Athlete Award.
Yet it was right then that he heard about windsurfing being dropped from the Olympics. 'It was a shock; I can't understand why a sport that's so popular is now out. Competing in the Olympics was my ambition - it's still my ambition - but now I may not achieve it anymore.'