Health and wellness

Movember in Hong Kong: rugby coach and America’s Cup sailor Thierry Barot grows ‘mo’ to give back

When you get to 40, a few friends die, then 50 a few more, then 60 it’s too many, says Frenchman, explaining why he’s passionate about the annual men’s health campaign

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 8:48pm

Thierry Barot’s sporting résumé is as long as Confucius’ beard.

The Frenchman was almost an Olympic athlete, but was robbed of his chance by politics. He’s sailed in the America’s Cup three times, and he now coaches the Hong Kong Football Club rugby forwards.

This month, Barot has turned his upper lip into a hairy advert to raise awareness and funds for cancer. The annual Movember campaign encourages men everywhere to grow moustaches during November in the name of prostate cancer.

In 2016, the Movember community championed men’s health in 21 countries, raising US$60.7 million through the growth of more than half a million moustaches. The money helps raise awareness and invests in men’s health initiatives that tackle prostate and testicular cancers, poor mental health and suicide prevention.

‘Grow a mo, save a bro’: Hongkongers sport moustaches for a good cause

For Barot, the main motivation for growing a ‘mo’ is to set an example for others, but he is not without his own personal tragedy. In 1993, he lost his father to stomach cancer. “He started heavy treatment, but he didn’t recover,” Barot recalls. “And basically, he decided to stop it and that was when we knew it would be the end.

“I just think it is important to give back in some way. When you get to 40 a few friends [die], then 50 a few more, then 60 it’s too many.”

He compares life to charging in an ancient battle. “The arrows fly and one friend falls here, then one over there, and you are running, thinking ‘what can I do?’ There are things you can do to help. Your actions will help,” Barot says. You can give one dollar to charity, or even simply give up your seat on the MTR for an elderly person, he says, adding it all makes a difference.

Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Hong Kong for men’s health – cheer them on next weekend

Barot was on the cusp of going to the 1980 Moscow Olympics as a rower until France decided not to send a team. Ultimately the experience ended his rowing career. “Rowing was my favourite sport,” he says. “But there was a big boycott. And when that happened, I stopped rowing and took up rugby.

“We just didn’t understand the politics. It was my dream. I was focused. At that time, I’d done the world championships and come third, and we were going for the silver medal.”

Barot had a short career playing rugby in France, and then played in America before returning home. “I came back and saw an advert for a team needing players,” Barot says. “I joined a team, played in the quarter final on a Sunday and then had my trials for the America’s Cup on Monday.”

He went on to sail in the America’s Cup, the oldest international trophy in the world in 1987, 1993 and 2007. “I would compare the America’s Cup to any sport at a high level,” he says. “It is a lot of work on detail. First, you define your global strategy. Then, by the end it’s about details and precision. You want to minimise the percentage of work.”

Hong Kong men, it’s time to let the ‘mo’ grow for good causes Hong Kong men, it’s time to let the ‘mo’ grow for good causes

Barot tries to take his experiences at sea and apply them to his latest role as rugby coach. “Preparation, diet and mental preparation is a big part of rugby,” he says. “Fitness is a big part. If you aren’t fit, you cannot work up here,” Barot says, pointing to his head.

“If you go with a Formula One team you see what they are doing and say ‘wow’,” Barot says. “Then you see a professional rugby team and see they are doing the same thing in terms of detail.”

Barot has coached a number of teams at the Hong Kong Football Club, from the lower social teams to the semi-professional first team. “You have to be aware of the level you are coaching and apply [your coaching technique] correctly,” he says.

With his fingers in many sporting pies, his new-found moustache is having the desired effect. “Just like sport, it’s about doing the best and getting other people involved,” he says. “Some of the players laughed when they saw my moustache, but then they tried it.

“You set an example, like if you pick up some rubbish on the street. It’s a small thing, but maybe someone will see you, wonder why you did it and start doing it themselves.”

Littering and the environment is another cause that Barot is passionate about. “Plastic in the water! If I go to a bakery to buy a croissant, and they give me a plastic bag. No! I just want to eat [the croissant],” he says.

MOVE it this Movember: men’s health campaign extended to include exercise

Hongkongers can support Movember in a number of ways. Firstly, grow a ‘mo’ and ask for donations, or donate to someone else who is growing one. You can also attend a Movember event.

There are a host of events going on in Hong Kong during Movember, including Let’s get Quizzical: The Movember Edition at Beef & Liberty in Lan Kwai Fong on November 14, Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour’s Iron Balls Masterclass at the bar in The Landmark on November 18, Gentlemen’s Evening at Foxglove in Duddell Street, Central, on November 29, and Mrs Pound’s Mo Sister event at the Sheung Wan restaurant on November 23. Head to the official Movember website for event details and more information.