Thai stint spurs Alex Lee to work harder
Training in stifling conditions with hardly a break prepares HK player for Youth Olympics
Alex Lee Cheuk-yiu's trip to Thailand was similar to the Monkey King's journey to the west - tough but rewarding.
To prepare for the Youth Olympic Games, Lee was sent for intensive training at the Banthongyod Badminton School in Bangkok last month. With no air-conditioning at the facility, it was a nightmare for the 18-year-old star at first.
"It was over 30 degrees Celsius and very hot inside the stadium. On the first four days, I was not feeling well and always running to the toilet to throw up during the training," said Lee, who is the number 10 junior in the world. "And then I started to get used to the temperature and intensity of the training."
Tim He Yiming, head coach of the Hong Kong team, said the purpose of Lee's trip was to train him to become more self-disciplined and help him build stronger willpower.
"He is a very gifted player. He is smart in handling his games and understands what the coaches teach him quickly," said He.
"But his intelligence has a flip side. Coaches can tell he sometimes thinks about ways to have less input in daily training, which is not good for his career."
The specially arranged training helped Lee learn from numerous top Thai players, including reigning women's world champion Ratchanok Intanon.
The bad habits have gone and Lee is now more proactive in his practice at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
"Training is tiring and tough and sometimes I just wanted to have more breaks," said Lee, who started to train on a full-time basis three years ago.
Lee started swinging a racquet at the age of five and was initially coached by his father before getting his first taste of the institute when he was in Form One.
He usually trains six days a week and now practises when he is supposed to rest.
"After returning from Bangkok, I found myself adapted to a new training mode and wanted to keep it up. I learned to treasure my practice time. I just want to keep improving by utilising every second before I head to Nanjing," he said.
Lee qualified for the Youth Olympics thanks to his world ranking.
"The top 10 players are real close in terms of ability. I have a chance to upset the players ranked higher than me," said Lee, who should be seeded eighth in Nanjing.
"Reaching the final at last year's Asian Youth Games proved I am capable of playing against other top junior players. And this time, I want to win a gold and enter the semi-finals in mixed doubles."
He will be joined by Yoyo Ng Tsz-yau, 16, in the mixed doubles.
The two youngsters will be accompanied by He to Nanjing.
"My presence will show the junior players we treat their tournaments seriously. It should not add any pressure as I have already been with them to world junior championships before," said He.
"They are competitive at the world stage. I hope they can stay relaxed to perform at their best."