Ma's Army stint pays off for Chan
TEENAGE middle distance runner, Maggie Chan Man-yee returned from a training stint at Chinese wonder-coach Ma Junren's camp in Liaoning and quickly made her mark by winning the women's section of the Adidas King of the Road race.
The Heep Yunn School pupil spent 12 days with Ma's renowned group of female runners in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province in north-east China, during her Christmas and New Year break from school.
Maggie was subjected to the toughest training she had ever experienced - having to run more than 20 kilometres a day along the snow-bound roads of Shenyang in temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Maggie explained that a typical day at Ma's training camp begins with a wake-up call at 4.30 am, followed by a training session at 5.00 am. The mainland runners are required to run about 23 kilometres in pre-breakfast training, but she was only asked to do 15 kilometres.
A breakfast of congee, noodles and bread is served at 7.30 am and the athletes then return to their quarters and sleep until 11.30 am when they get up for lunch.
The second training session of the day is held at a 200-metre indoor track and begins at 3.00 pm. Maggie had to complete 65 laps, about 13 kilometres, but her mainland counterparts continued to the 100-lap mark.
Dinner is served at 5.30 pm and the athletes take it easy for the rest of the evening before lights out at 8.30 pm.
Ma, who put China on the world athletics map by nurturing a band of record-breaking women runners, spotted great potential in Maggie, an 18-year-old Hong Kong Sports Institute scholarship athlete, when she was competing at the Asian Championships in Manila last month.
''I was very nervous when I left Hong Kong,'' admitted Maggie, adding: ''I was afraid Mr Ma would be very strict. But he was more like a father figure to me.
''On the training ground he was as strict as I had expected but when he was talking to the athletes, they were smiling and laughing. I did not think he would be so kind.'' Maggie shrugged off accusations that Ma's runners take performance-enhancing drugs, saying: ''They don't need to take drugs because they train so hard.'' She said the only drink taken by the athletes, other than hot water, was a date-flavoured tea, the ingredients of which include the fruit of Chinese wolfberry, oolong tea and sweet-leaf chrysanthemum.
Although turtle blood is a regular dietary supplement for Ma's runners, Maggie said it was drunk only in the build-up to major championships and she did not sample it herself.
In summing up the Liaoning training stint, Maggie said: ''It has made me more confident about my own running.'' Maggie's tough training paid off handsomely as she breezed to victory in the second race of the Adidas King of the Road series, beating top local runners Mandy Lo Man-yee, Yuko Gordon, Chiu Pik-kwan and Sheila Purves.
She covered the 7.5-kilometre course round The Peak in 26 minutes and 22 seconds, a full minute better than her personal best over the same course, and more than half a minute ahead of second-placed Lo.
Maggie's target for the year is to do well at the Asian Games and she wants to concentrate on the 1,500 metres and 3,000 metres in the build-up to Hiroshima.
''I am looking forward to going back to the camp at Easter, although my family are against it. They are worried because it was hard for me to find a telephone to make a long-distance call.''