After several turbulent, life-changing years which led to his departure from the national squad, triathlete Ivan Lo Ching-hin has regained his peak form. As he celebrates his second continental championships medal, he has set his sights on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 23-year-old Hongkonger was a swimmer and runner at primary school, and started to combine the two sports with cycling in Primary Six. He entered the Hong Kong triathlon youth team when he was in Form Four at Diocesan Boys' School.
'Even though I entered the junior squad, my results were not outstanding. I could win prizes in local competitions but not at international events,' Lo says.
Upon completion of Form Five in the 2008-09 school year, Lo decided to further his studies in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Lo finished high school there and entered the University of Canterbury in September 2010. He was coached by New Zealand triathlon national team member Clark Ellice.
Lo describes the training in Christchurch as 'enjoyable'. 'Unlike Hong Kong, the training programme there is more flexible. Coaches and athletes can be friends and neither side would have a higher class. Simply put, our city is putting the traditional school's classroom mode into national team training, which I really hate,' says Lo.
The results were impressive. Lo represented Hong Kong after training for a year in Christchurch and won the under-23 men's gold medal at the 2010 Subic Bay ASTC U23 and Junior Triathlon Asian Championships in the Philippines.
Lo's career path seemed smooth until the massive earthquake in Christchurch on February 22 last year. His house was riddled with cracks and the whole backyard garden lifted up. 'I jumped out from the window to escape and went back to Hong Kong three days later. My school accepted my deferral in studies but right now the city is still unstable and I haven't got a plan for when I will go back there yet,' says Lo.
Ellice also could not coach Lo since he was busy preparing for this summer's London Olympics. So Lo had no choice but to train in Hong Kong again. After his stint in New Zealand, Lo found it difficult to adapt to training in Hong Kong. His results suffered, and he returned empty-handed from the 2011 Yilan ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships in Taiwan.
'At the time my form and results dropped again, I thought it was because of me. But with the passage of time, I realised it was the format and direction of training in the Hong Kong team that hindered me. I had communication problems with my coaches,' says Lo.
'I quit the team in October last year and followed programmes designed by Andrew Wright, the Hong Kong triathlon representative at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.'
Lo's comeback is underway. In last month's 2012 Tateyama ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships in Japan, he claimed the under-23 men's silver medal.
'Even though I am not training in the squad, I will try my best to maintain a good partnership with the Hong Kong Triathlon Association and prepare for qualification for the Asian Games in 2014 and Rio Olympics two years later,' says Lo.