Winter sports in Hong Kong: from curling to ice hockey to skiing, could you be city’s next Olympian?
Teenager Arabella Ng was Hong Kong’s sole athlete at Pyeongchang, but with Hong Kong offering more winter sports facilities than you might expect for both serious training and leisure, it could be a different story in four years
The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics marks the first time the Winter Olympics has been held in Asia since the 1998 games in Japan. It features 102 events across 15 sports, with almost 3,000 athletes from 92 countries competing for a medal.
For those in Hong Kong with dreams of becoming a Winter Olympian – perhaps even in time for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing – we’ve scoped out the best local places to test your career potential. For those with less lofty ambitions, we’ve also included how many calories you may burn while enjoying these sports.
After watching the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, John Li Shek-chong, a former lecturer in recreation and sports management at the University of Hong Kong, set up the Hong Kong Curling Association, which became a full member of the World Curling Federation in 2016.
Li adapted the sport in response to the city’s lack of ice. He bought portable curling “sheets” that could be laid on flat surfaces and developed a new set of rules to create “floor curling”. He offers 12-hour instructor courses for adults, which range from HK$750 to HK$900, and his students, who are qualified instructors, teach classes for HK$30 an hour. In the past two years he has introduced floor curling to 18 countries and regions, with 54 cities in China alone playing the sport.
Li set up men’s, women’s and mixed Hong Kong teams, as well as a junior boys’ team which has beaten England and the Czech Republic. The Hong Kong men’s team have beaten Australia, and the women’s team made it to the semi-finals of the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships in 2017, where they lost to China.
Association members who live in Canada and the US practise at their local clubs, while those in Hong Kong travel to Japan, Korea and China to practise during the holidays. Although Hong Kong-based members sometimes practise on local rinks, friction from the rough ice slows the curling stones, Li says.
For those wanting to play on a more recreational level, indoor games venue the Ball Room has a dedicated curling area at its Kwun Tong location, one of three in Kowloon, and provides all the equipment needed for the ice-less surface. The entrance fee is HK$55 an hour, plus HK$200 an hour for curling.
Curling for an hour will burn 272 calories, according to online calorie counter and diet website MyFitnessPal. Calorie counts are rough estimates, and based on a person weighing 68 kilograms.
The Ball Room, Room A, 10/F Block 1, Camelpaint Building, 62 Hoi Yuen Rd, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, tel: 5405 4579, theballroom.com.hk
Teenager Arabella Ng was Hong Kong’s sole athlete at Pyeongchang, and the first from the city to ever compete at the Olympics in skiing. Although she lives and trains in Canada, she is a member of the Ski Association of Hong Kong, which was founded in 2003.
You might think snow sports are not possible in a tropical metropolis, but Hong Kong is host to several indoor slopes where you can master the perfect snowplough and begin to follow in 16-year-old Ng’s footsteps.
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The city’s pioneer of dry slopes is Slope Infinity, which set up in 2002 in North Point. Its carpet training decks are similar to those used to train skiers and snow boarders at the world-class Aspen ski resort in Colorado. A group session for two students costs HK$1,450 for 55 minutes, while a private class is HK$725 for half an hour on the large deck, or HK$600 on the solo deck.
Eight of the centre’s nine instructors have completed either level one or two of the four-level Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance, and the ninth has competed in ski competitions in China before moving to Hong Kong.
For a larger indoor experience, hop across the border to Shenzhen’s Window of the World theme park, which boasts a 4,000-square-metre piste in its Alpine Ice and Snow World area.
An hour of skiing downhill at a moderate pace will burn 408 calories, according to MyFitnessPal. Racers will shed 544 calories.
Slope Infinity, 1/F, 148 Electric Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, tel: 2107 4567, slope8.com
Since the city’s first puck drop in the 1980s, ice hockey has grown hugely in Hong Kong. At the city’s 2015 Mega Ice Hockey 5s competition, nearly 100 international teams took part.
Hong Kong has six ice rinks. The largest and only Olympic-sized rink is at MegaBox shopping centre in Kowloon Bay, where you can watch games or practise shooting your own pucks. Other, smaller, rinks are found in shopping centres including Cityplaza in Quarry Bay and Elements in Kowloon.
If you want to take the sport more seriously, join the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association, which was founded in 1980 and is a full member of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Get good enough and you could be part of Hong Kong’s national men’s or women’s teams, or U18 men’s team, which all compete in the IIHF World Championship Programme.
Whizzing around the ice with a puck for an hour will burn 544 calories, according to MyFitnessPal.
Mega Ice, Unit 1, Level 10 MegaBox, 38 Wang Chiu Rd, Kowloon Bay, tel: 2709 4023, megaice.com.hk
The first winter sport ever to feature at the Olympics (having done so in 1908), figure skating includes solo, pairs and foursomes events. The skating, dancing and sometimes synchronised performances require strength, agility and grace.
Hong Kong has yet to send any figure skaters to a winter games, despite having athletes take part in short-track speedskating events in the past. Mega Ice at MegaBox, however, offers courses for those with their sights set on being the first, with prices ranging from HK$150 to HK$1,700 depending on the day and type of lesson.
Before you get started, you can get a taste of the sport at the 2018 Hong Kong Figure Skating and Short Track Speed Skating Championships on April 24 and 25 at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong. The championships are run by the Hong Kong Skating Union, which also hosts the annual Asian Junior Figure Skating Challenge. The union was established in 1980 and is a full member of the International Skating Union and Asian Skating Union.
An hour of ice skating will burn 476 calories, according to MyFitnessPal, but a few leaps and turns could shed a few more.
After visiting one of Hong Kong’s indoor snow centres to perfect your cross-country skiing technique, head to the South China Athletic Association (SCAA) in Causeway Bay to fire some shots at its indoor shooting range if you want to grab Hong Kong’s biathlon spot. The city lacks representation at the 2018 games, but that could all change by the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
While gun ownership in Hong Kong and Macau is illegal and anyone in possession could face fines of up to HK$100,000 and imprisonment of up to 14 years, you can still use one at shooting ranges in the city.
The SCAA’s range is fully equipped with computerised equipment to Olympic standard, and provides a 10-metre air rifle event. Range fees are HK$58 per hour, inclusive of one firing point, one rifle and 80 rounds of pellets.
The Hong Kong Gun Club also has five shooting ranges at its clubhouse in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories. It has qualified instructors and holds regular competitions and events.
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An hour of shooting will burn 179 calories, according to online calorie counter FitWatch.
South China Athletic Association, 88 Caroline Hill Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, tel: 2577 6932, scaa.org.uk
Hong Kong Gun Club, Route Twisk, Tsuen Wan, New Territories, tel: 2493 0514, hongkonggunclub.com