The weight of experience
When you watch the Olympic weightlifting events on TV, you may think the sport looks painful and tiring. But local weightlifters Ben Li Kwok-tin and Tsang Wai-shing still fell in love with it, and they aim to shine on the international stage one day.
Even though weightlifting is an Olympic sport, there is a lack of training venues locally. Powerlifting, which is easier to set up in gyms, is more popular in the city.
Weightlifting showcases snatch, clean and jerk events. On the other hand, powerlifting includes squat, benchpress and deadlift. Each athlete has three attempts at each event and the final result is the sum of the best attempts. Powerlifting is gaining popularity around the world.
Ben, 16, a Form Four student at NTHYK Tai Po District Secondary School, first started going to the gym at a youth centre in Sheung Shui.
'A social worker introduced me to the centre,' he says. 'There I met an instructor who practised powerlifting. I watched him competing in local contests and I found it quite interesting. I wanted to try something other than just working out, so I joined the training course organised by the Hong Kong Weightlifting and Powerlifting Association last year.'
To prevent injuries, Ben takes his warm-up seriously. Each time, he starts with an empty bar and then gradually adds weights to it.
In a year, Ben has proven his ability in the sport. The teenager, who used to do cross-country and long-distance running, has increased his muscle power. He was declared the Hong Kong sub-junior record holder of all three events at the Hong Kong Powerlifting Championships 2012.
This victory has earned Ben a place at the Asian Benchpress Championships in Kazakhstan next month. 'This is the first time I will be taking part in an international event,' he says. 'I am confident that I can improve on my record in the near future.'
Compared to Ben, 21-year-old Wai-shing is more experienced. The Year Two pharmaceutical technology student at the IVE first tried exercising at gyms run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD).
'I wanted to try powerlifting because this sport lets me compare myself with other athletes, while fitness exercises can't. However, there is no suitable equipment at thee LCSD gyms. So I surfed the net and joined the course run by the Weightlifting and Powerlifting Association,' he says.
After the powerlifting course, Wai-shing started training in weightlifting. 'I found it more challenging as snatch, clean and jerk requires more technique than the events in powerlifting,' he says.
The 1.7m-tall athlete says a relaxed body is needed to lift heavy weights.
'Power comes from my thighs when I lift a weight in snatch. My rule number one for weightlifting is not to do heavy weights when I am not in good form on the day,' he adds.
Hong Kong has regular powerlifting tournaments, but there has been no weightlifting competitions in recent years because of its relatively low popularity.
Gaining competition experience overseas is the only option for Wai-shing.
'I may start by joining a tournament in Singapore when I am ready. But my ultimate goal is to share the happiness I have gained from the sport and hope more young people will join our team,' he says.