Skater Barton Lui first Hong Kong man to compete at Winter Olympics

Speedster on ice Barton Lui will achieve dream of waving the flag high when he becomes first HK male to represent city at Winter Olympics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 5:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 5:01am

Picture a bauhinia flag waved by a determined but lone young man at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Russia next month.

It will be short track speed skater Barton Lui Pan-to, 20, from San Wan Ho, the only Hong Kong athlete with a confirmed place at Sochi.

It is an impressive feat, considering he comes from a subtropical city with no ice rink of international standard.

Lui is the first Hong Kong man to qualify for a Winter Olympics.

Even if more athletes join the contingent before the deadline at the end of the month, it is only the fourth time Hong Kong will be represented at the Games.

Cordia Tsoi Po-yee and Christy Ren made Hong Kong's debut at Salt Lake City in 2002, while former mainlander Han Yueshuang was the sole athlete in Turin, Italy, in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. All three also took part in the short track speed skating events.

Lui is in South Korea working on his final preparations for the Games.

"I've had a picture in my mind of what it would be like to carry the Hong Kong flag at the opening ceremony and I keep thinking about the moment in case I'm appointed the bearer," he said.

"I think it's a glorious duty, as well as a great responsibility. If I do it I will be very proud and thrilled."

He qualified to race in the 1,500 metre event at November's World Cup series in Turin and Kolomna, Russia.

Lui, who began rollerskating when he was seven and started short track speed skating on ice at 10, participated in all three Olympic distances, the 500 metres, 1,000 metres and 1,500 metres - for which he holds the Hong Kong records.

He recalled learning that he had qualified.

"I couldn't sleep that night. I was so excited. I would like to thank my family - my parents and grandparents gave me their full support when I suspended my studies to chase my dream."

Lui, an only child, moved to Vancouver when he was in his teens for the sake of his training.

After completing Year 10 in Vancouver, Lui moved to Changchun , Jilin , to train full time. Lui has been based in Seoul for two years, where he trains at the Korea National Sports University.

Final preparations involve waking at 5am every day for a 90-minute training session on ice before breakfast, and then three to four hours training outside the rink in the afternoon.

He spends every night in, sharpening his blades.

Lui only gets funding from the Hong Kong Skating Union for expenses incurred attending major tournaments.

"It has always been a financial burden for my family to keep me on the track," he said.

"When I don't get sponsorship for some overseas competition, I need to pay tens of thousands on air fares as many take place in Europe or America.

"I also need to pay for my expensive gear. For example, my skating shoes with blades are tailor-made in South Korea. They cost me about HK$20,000."