What's the difference between being a full-time and part-time athlete? Being a full-time athlete can be quite boring. You have to wait for instructions from the coach to see what sort of practise you have to do. Training intensity is reduced before competition, but we still have to stay here. After moving into the Sports Institute, I have also been out of touch with the outside world. Besides training, what else do you do? Study. I'm studying sports science and coaching. Sometimes, I go out to eat with my friends and family. Actually, there isn't much to do. What does your family think about your career choice? They give me room to develop. I've chosen to be an athlete and I'm only halfway there. If I keep on going, they won't object to my decision. I've been through ups and downs in the past few years, and my family has been really supportive. When they read or hear something negative about me from the mass media, they call and ask if I am all right. My parents are proud of my achievements, but they sometimes don't understand why I lost in a game, or why I was injured because they didn't know much about athletics. But now, they will ask me why because they would like to know more about athletics. You said you have gone through ups and downs. When did the low tide come? There were two periods. I'm getting through a recent one and the last one was the previous National Games. I was injured and had to pull out of two big games, the Asian Youth Athletics Meet and the National Games. At the end, I chose to participate in one, but the result was not good. After that injury, I needed a year to get back in shape. I thought about giving up, but my coach, family and friends encouraged me. Recently, I got sick and suffered from injury. This really affected my mood. My coach became impatient too, as he wants me to follow his training schedule but I couldn't. He worries about me. When he sees other athletes improve while I remain at the same level, he also sometimes wonders if I can do it. I can hear people saying 'To Wai-lok is lagging behind'. I've thought about proving them wrong but if I force myself to train in order to compete it's not good for me. If I wait, there will be comments about me. I'm still struggling. What results do you aim for? When I train or take part in games outside Hong Kong, I am always conscious of the comments from other coaches. Maybe I hear too much about the expectations my coach has and how other coaches estimate my performance, because I think I should be performing better. I should be able to finish 100 metres in 10.2 seconds and finish 200 metres in 21 seconds. This represents a good standard in Hong Kong and Asia and I hope I can reach this level one day. Chiang Wai-hung, Ho Kwan-lung, Tang Hon-sing and you have co-operated in 4x100m relay for many years. How do you relate to each other? We have different coaches which has some influence on our co-operation. The 4x100m is a major event for Hong Kong, because we have a good chance of winning a medal. Our priority is to work on our individual performances. Different coaches have different training strategies which would create a gap. It's also hard to arrange time to practise together. Training arrangements became better after we got a head coach and we have had faster progression. We've known each other since we were very young. I'm the one with the least experience and the youngest. They have taught me many things. Have you thought about your future after athletics? I haven't, although maybe I should. I don't know how far this road will take me. Maybe I will have to retire soon. But if I let myself think this way, I can't maintain my commitment. Of course, I hope athletics will help my career. I want to contribute to this field too. I know there's only a very slim chance to realise this because there is so much competition and there's not much demand for this kind of work. Even my coach is working part-time. If you want to earn a living, it's really hard. Do you think it is worthwhile giving up your studies or your job to be an athlete? Frankly, not every one is good at studying. Graduating from the university is a happy event, but after graduation you might just get a job and have no achievements at all. I have some talent in sports. I want to show my parents that while I may not be good academically, I can still excel in other fields. I will keep on running until something or someone influences me to give it up. What is the most valuable thing you have gained in athletics? I learned how to be independent. I'm the only son and the youngest in my family and my mother did everything. After I entered the Institute, I had to do everything myself. Getting along with others is another valuable lesson. When you enter society, people treat you as an adult. You don't have the privilege of making mistakes. There are some bad influences out there; you have to know how to distinguish what is really good for you. Name: To Wai-lok Birthday: August 7, 1979 Birthplace: Hong Kong Occupation: Athlete After being spotted as a talented runner during a school sports day, Hong Kong sprinter To Wai-lok began training seriously in 1995. When he made a splash in the Asian Junior Athletics Championship he was recognised as Hong Kong's most promising young sprinter. In order to prepare for the Sydney Olympiad he dedicated himself to full-time training in 1999. He and his three other teammates - Chiang Wai-hung, Ho Kwan-lung and Tang Hon-sing - claimed a bronze medal in the sprint relay 4x100m. Having seen his records smashed while sidelined by injury has helped Wai-lok become more tolerant of his own limitations as he works towards improving his performance.