'Hot' Polar Bears power to victory
Perseverance paid off for the Polar Bear canoe polo team on Sunday when they finally won the boys' Winter Canoe Polo Open Championships. They had finished third in 2010 and runners-up last year in the competition organised by the Hong Kong Canoe Union.
On a day the Hong Kong Observatory issued a cold-weather warning, it was perhaps inevitable that such an aptly named team would triumph at Wan Chai swimming pool. They beat Active Team B 5-1 in the final.
The success - over a 35m x 23m pool area - was extra sweet because it came against the same team that had beaten the Polar Bears in last year's final.
Captain Alfred Lau Lok-hang, a Form Six student at Lee Kau Yan Memorial School, Kowloon, said defeat made them totally focused.
'We lost to them last year, so we knew they were strong,' Alfred, who plays in defence, said. 'We didn't relax, even when we opened up a lead, because we didn't want to give them any chance of catching up.'
The Tuen Mun-based team have done extra training over the past six months, and also worked closely with a regular coach, Kevin Yeung Wing-keung, a Hong Kong canoe polo team player, in an effort to win the title. 'The boys have really improved and showed it with their skilful play on the way to the title,' Yeung said.
The team, comprising secondary school, Institute of Vocational Education and Project Yijin students, claimed a place in the final after beating Macau's Baia do Mar Canoe Club 4-3 in a play-off.
The teams finished joint second on sevenpoints - with three points for a win and one for a draw - after the round-robin matches in the six-team competition. Active Team B finished top after four wins.
The duration of the final - on a day that also featured the junior and novice men's and senior women's competitions - had to be shortened from 10 minutes to only seven minutes because the end of the pool rental was fast approaching.
Yet the shorter match made the contest even more intense. Active took the lead after only 14seconds. But Polar Bear's left winger, Chow Cheuk-hong, brought his team level 40 seconds later.
Active went on the attack, but Polar Bear goalkeeper Li Ka-chin and his defence held firm. They fought their way back down the pool and forwards Wong Cheuk-hei and Chow Tsz-long both snatched goals before Cheuk-hong's second put the contest beyond Active's reach.
With only one second left Tsz-long got his second goal and his team's fifth to round off the victory.
The final day of the two-day championships - which will feature the Polar Bear team competing in the senior men's category - is at Wan Chai swimming pool this Sunday from 9.30am to 6.30pm.