Taekwondo star brings in the gold

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 12:00am


In the 10 years Paul Yeung Wai-kwan has coached the Hong Kong junior taekwondo squad, his students have won many silver and bronze medals in overseas competitions - but never gold.

Then one teenager changed all that.

'When Wing-long entered the final, I knew he was going to win a gold medal for the Hong Kong team,' said Yeung, who coaches with colleague Francis Shum Kam-wong.

Ho Wing-long, from South Tuen Mun Government Secondary School, clinched a gold medal in the International Cup Invitational in Vietnam two months ago.

The fifth former used to be a shy taekwondo athlete. He did not want to participate in some competitions because that meant facing a crowd.

Even though his talent was sometimes hidden, Wing-long was not completely invisible.

The athlete, who has had 10 years of training in the sport, enrolled in the junior squad two years ago. Since then, he has become more active, competing in more competitions - including the inter-school contest.

'My school has a team, but I usually miss their training sessions because I have a tight schedule,' said Wing-long. 'I didn't speak up and ask for a chance to compete for school until this year.

'I am braver, and I know I need more chances to prove my abilities. Eventually, I took part in the inter-school taekwondo competition and won a gold medal for my school in January.'

Besides holding the inter-school title, the 16-year-old is also a two-time champion of the junior featherweight category in the Hong Kong Men's Taekwondo Black Belt Open (2010 and 2011). Because the Hong Kong Taekwondo Association doesn't have a junior ranking, the wins mean Wing-long is at the top among his local rivals.

These victories paved the way to bigger success at the overseas competition.

At the International Cup Invitational, Wing-long faced challenges from athletes from Taipei and other places.

He won four matches to claim the gold medal.

His road to the final was tough.

'The semi-final was very tight. I faced the Taipei athlete and led in the match. But then he levelled the score at the end of the third game, which is also the final one. Since the score is 6-6, the judges had to decide who had a bigger advantage and better performance to be the winner. I was very nervous,' said Wing-long, who was named the victor.

After that match, an inspired Wing-long went on to beat another Taipei teen in the final, 6-3.

Yeung, who was holding in his emotions until Wing-long won the final, gave his student and co-coach big hugs to celebrate the long-waited victory.

'It is really tough for our athlete to beat rivals from teams that excel in the sport. Taipei are a very strong team at the Asian and Olympic Games, and their juniors are already mature and skilful,' said Yeung.

'And Wing-long has helped us [win a gold medal] for the very first time, I didn't know what to say at that moment.'

Because taekwondo is not considered an elite sport at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, there are no full-time athletes or coaches on the junior or senior squads. This has probably put Hong Kong squads at a disadvantage compared to top-level nations.

But Yeung expects Wing-long and other up-and-coming junior athletes to help the sport shine in the city.

'Wing-long still has many years to go in his career. One day, he may represent Hong Kong at the Asian Games or Olympic Games,' said Yeung.

Wing-long will make his debut at his first multisport event next month. He will compete against taekwondo athletes from the mainland in the National Intercity Games in Nanchang .

'I am ready for the challenge, and I will try to get a medal at the games,' said Wing-long.