Underdogs, mentors and Olympic favourites

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 12:00am

The slogan may be 'One World, One Dream', but there have been many memorable moments and great athletes over the years at the modern Olympic games. Here at CitySeen, we are definitely ready to leave the politics of the Beijing Games behind and just stick to sports. For fun, we've decided to ask various local personalities which athletes from Games past and present they most admire and respect, and what outstanding achievement of theirs deserve a gold for inspiration.

Andy On Chi-kit, actor

'I would have to say (American 200m, 400m and 4 x 400m relay runner) Michael Johnson is my ... favourite. He was just a badass all-round athlete scooping up gold medals left and right. He made me want to wear gold shoes, but I think he's the only person that looks good in them.'

Tarlan Amigh, founder of Open Air markets

'I love underdog stories - people who overcome enormous odds to do something unexpected and people who stand up for their beliefs or for themselves in the face of adversity. For these reasons, my favourite Olympic hero is Jesse Owens. The American track and field athlete entered the 1936 Olympics, now called the 'Hitler Olympics', held in Nazi Germany. He won four gold medals and set three Olympic records. Hitler refused to shake hands with the African-American athlete, prompting Olympic committee officials to insist that he greet all medallists or none at all. Owens was also a sickly child and was encouraged by his mother to run to build his strength. He was recruited by American universities, but this was pre-segregation and Owens couldn't live on campus or eat in the 'whites only' dining hall. Even in his own country, Owens was continuously subjected to segregation, racism and bigotry, but he went on to be named one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. He never stopped doing what he loved, and he never compromised his dignity.'

Derek Kwik, ultramarathon runner and venture capitalist

'I remember watching in admiration virtually unknown Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea, who swam and won his preliminary heat in the 100-metres freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Having never raced more than 50 metres in his home country, he flopped and paddled in his own technique to victory (his two other competitors were disqualified for false starts). While his winning time was more than a minute behind the fastest swimmer and was far from attaining a podium finish, he captured the hearts of millions by showing a determination that could easily represent any one of us. Being an Olympic hero is not just about the shiny medals. It is being able to summon ... a sense of stalwart conviction in all activities ... during the deepest and darkest challenges. Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is.'

Faye Leung, principal dancer of Hong Kong Ballet

'China's 'prince of Gymnastics' Li Ning who won a total of three gold, two silver and a bronze at the Los Angeles Olympics is my all-time Olympic hero. I was only six at the time and a member of the Children's Palace Little Companion Art Troupe in Shanghai when he won the medals. I remember our dance teacher would always motivate us in our practices with tales of Li's dedicated and ambitious spirit. Like ballet, Li's gymnastics captures a combination of strength and grace. Ballet also requires me to challenge my own body's limits in speed, height, power and determination. Just watching the Olympics inspires me of the importance of going beyond my own limits.'

Hu Bing, model-actor

'I used to be a rowing athlete (rower). One of my favourite Olympic heroes is Cao Mianying, who was like an older sister to me on our rowing team. She is a former world champion and the silver medallist of women's double sculls in Atlanta 1996. We trained together when we were young, but now I am an actor and she is the chief coach of the national women's rowing team. I remember she taught me the importance of not being arrogant after a win, and not to give up after a loss. I didn't get it when I was younger, but now having worked in entertainment for so many years, I finally understand what it means. It has become my motto, not only in sports, but also in acting and life.'