Youngster Cheung has too many guns for Naylor and company
Young legs helped Cheung Chun-fan to repel a stiff challenge from policeman Andy Naylor and nail his first victory in the men's overall category in the 10-kilometre event.
Cheung, 20, is half the age of Naylor. And it helped as he held on to win his first race in seven years of appearing in this popular event, which attracted a record entry of nearly 37,000.
'Last year I finished 13th and I'm very pleased to have won this time,' said Cheung, a student at Polytechnic University. 'I guess I was better prepared, having trained for the past three months.'
Age also helped. Naylor stayed with Cheung until the 8km mark before the young student started to ease away.
'I just couldn't stay with him over the finishing stretch. I'm not as young as I used to be,' Naylor said.
A leading pack of four - Cheung and Naylor, last year's champion Mark Ryan and Macau policeman Kwok Chi-wai - dominated the early stretches of the event on Hong Kong Island.
'We ran together for about six kilometres before Ryan dropped off,' said Naylor, reconstructing the race. 'Then at the eight-kilometre stage, Cheung made his move.'
Cheung gained the winning advantage, finishing in 34 minutes and 15 seconds. Naylor was a close second in 34:22, while Kwok was third in 34:41.
'It was tough. The humidity was around 93 per cent and it really had an effect on the runners and their times,' Naylor said.
'I was saturated with sweat even before the race begun.'
Ryan pulled out of contention halfway through the course.
'I saw Mark drop out around the six-kilometre mark, and I didn't know why. But I was feeling strong and good and felt I could win,' added Cheung, who failed to eclipse his personal best of 33:47. Ryan attributed his withdrawal to 'mental' fatigue rather than physical pain. 'I hit a mental wall soon after I felt a pain shoot through my leg. I have a slight problem with my hamstring but that's no excuse,' he said.
Naylor had to settle for the accolade of champion in the men's masters category - for those runners over 35.