Father and son Hong Kong runners bring the best out in each other
A shared lifestyle and understanding help Wong Kwok-wah and Gump Wong compete together
Is there such a thing as a sporting gene? This month we meet three families with a strong sporting background, suggesting a passion for sport may indeed be hardwired in our genes.
Some families like to dine together - for the Wong family, it's all about training and racing together.
Avid local adventure racers Wong Kwok-wah and Gump Wong Yuk-hei are a competitive father-son duo, first over the line at the Double Cove Waterfest Kayak 'n' Run race in August, in which they paddled 5km then ran 5km.
Although it's the first win for the pair, they've been competing together for the past five years and regularly finish on the podium in their category.
"I used to run and race on my own, but when Gump started signing up we decided to train and race together - it's a way to get more quality time together," says 58-year-old Kwok-wah, a salesman.
"I'm definitely very relaxed and enjoy every single race with dad," says Gump, 34. "The only time he's ever driven me crazy was in one race when he ran the wrong way, but we got back on track."
Kwok-wah's sporty influence has shown throughout Gump's life: as a child he played soccer, swam and cycled - like his dad - later being selected to join the Hong Kong Junior Cycling Squad. He chose personal training as a career.
For the past 10 years Kwok-wah has started his day the same way: 30 minutes of swimming from a nearby pier close to his home in Ma On Shan to Wu Kai Sha Beach, and then another 30-minute run home. Three years ago, Gump started joining him.
"When my grandson grows up, I'll team up with him, too, so that I can enjoy more adventure and trail-running races," says Kwok-wah.
What are your earliest memories of running?
Gump: When I was about eight or nine, dad registered me for a running race that started from Sha Tin Pass Road and went to Kowloon Peak (about 7km). I was the slowest one. l hadn't even finished the race when it was over. When I got to the finish line, my parents were the only ones there waiting for me.
Kwok-wah: I grew up near Lion Rock and spent most of my childhood running in the mountains in between other sports such as cycling, soccer and swimming. My passion remains unchanged today. I like trail running races that combine stream crossings and rock scrambling in the route. The more challenging, the more fun for me. I don't have any special technique. I just enjoy it.
What do you enjoy most about training with the other?
Gump: Dad has never been late or cancelled any training. If we plan to start training at 7am, he is always ready and prepared to go at 6.50am; I dare not be late or not show up. He trains really hard and always shuffles his schedule to get the most training in.
Kwok-wah: It used to be me always taking charge and organising the races. But now he's all grown up, he's stronger than me both in terms of fitness and knowledge - and he's the one signing us up and taking the lead. It makes me happy to know my passion has passed on to him. I feel especially good when he encourages me during races and makes me feel appreciated - it's a good feeling as a dad to think you can still be valued as a teammate to your son.
What does racing bring to your life?
Kwok-wah: I've always categorised races into two types: one for training and enjoyment, and the other where you are really pushing yourself and trying for a top ranking. For those competitive races, I always spend some time researching and coming up with a strategic plan - I enjoy the planning. But whether we win or not, I always enjoy the entire racing process.
Gump: I love that feeling of satisfaction I get when I finish a race. Of course, I'm even happier when I win, but sometimes I think I learn more when I don't win. Challenging myself and pushing myself to be stronger and faster in the next race is why I keep racing.
Does being family give you a competitive edge?
Kwok-wah: Definitely. We share the same lifestyle and understand each other's personality. We have a better understanding of how to get the most out of each other.
Gump: If you have disagreements with other teammates, you can choose not to race with them or partner up with someone else. But not us. If we have a different idea about the way to do something, we have to figure out a better way to communicate and go forward together. I think this is really a strength. We are strong together.