‘I’ll use the crowd’: upbeat Tiffany Chan determined not to fall foul of raucous Rio home support

Febrile crowds have already accounted for two other Hong Kong Olympians in Rio and the young golfer is adamant she won’t become the third

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 10:21am

Two of Hong Kong’s Olympians have fallen victim to the volume here in Rio. Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching is confident she won’t be No 3.

Whenever a Brazilian athlete or team is in action, the wildly partisan home fans have created a tumult in support of their own. Fencer Cheung Ka-long and table tennis player Tang Peng both fell victim to lesser-ranked home favourites inspired to new heights by their fans.

History-making golfer Chan is in a three-ball with Brazil’s Victoria Lovelady for the first two rounds of the women’s tournament, but she’s hoping the raucous galleries will inspire her too.

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“We’ve met and she’s actually a graduate from USC [where Chan studies]. I met her in China [at a tournament], we talked and she’s nice too, I’m looking forward to playing with her as well.

“Even though it’s golf, the spectators could get pretty noisy – my parents and friend Stephanie [Ho, the former golfer and TVB artiste] are coming, so I’ll have a few friends among the Brazilians!

“But I always love people watching us and making it exciting, so I’m not worried about playing any Brazilian golfer. Maybe it’s good for me too, the more people watching, you just get used to the crowd.

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“I actually think I respond better than when there’s nobody watching. It’s funny because maybe I’m trying to show them what I’ve got. I’m always happy to have people watch, if you’re not good they won’t come watch you.”

Chan, 22, will compete in the LPGA Tour Q school at Mission Hills in California immediately after the Olympics and added: “I might as well get used to [partisan crowds], it’ll be a good learning experience.”

Chan, the reigning Hong Kong Ladies Open champion, met her counterpart from the men’s tournament as she arrived at the Olympic course and the gold medallist departed. There wasn’t much time to pick Justin Rose’s brains for tips on how to win here in Rio, but Chan is certainly inspired by the English major winner’s commitment to his team.

“He was in a rush, so we only got a second together though he seems really nice. [Hong Kong pro] James Stewart who made my [custom Olympics] golf bag is close friends with him, so I texted him and showed him his golf bag with Justin. Hopefully in the future I can meet him in person more.

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“One thing I’ve seen him mention is his pride about playing for Team GB and the Olympics is totally different from regular tournaments. Golf is so individual, playing for your country is a totally different atmosphere ... I’m really happy to fly the flag and really proud of myself to say I’m a Hong Kong Olympian.”

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Chan has been settling into Athletes’ Village life, although as a late arrival, she’s missed some of the fun. Caddie Steven Lam Tsz-fung was not about to waste his presence there though, showing the kind of commitment and dedication that should serve Tiffany well as he stayed outside the front door of Hong Kong’s building to get a selfie with fellow resident Usain Bolt at 2.30am as he returned from winning the 100m gold.

“It’s still amazes me a lot [to be an Olympian],” she added. “We saw Bolt yesterday after he won, well Steven waited for him because we live in same building, we’ve seen a lot of swimmers. The atmosphere is so good you see all the athletes in the gym, eating together and it’s not a feeling of playing a tournament, it’s like you’re in a big group of athletes that all work hard together and that just gives you more confidence and more expectation.”

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Chan competed in the US Women’s Amateur Championships and then enjoyed a week off with her aunt and uncle in Toronto before coming to Brazil. She, coach Brad Schadewitz and Lam have been working hard on her short game. Accompanying her for a few holes of her practice round on Monday it was easy to see why – the Gil Hanse-designed course has wide fairways and not-very-punishing rough, but the greens undulate like a carelessly dropped rug, full of frightening peaks and valleys.

“I think everything is in shape, I’m pretty happy and looking forward to day one,” said Chan.

“The course is perfect, the conditions perfect and it’s pretty impressive seeing a brand new golf course being in such good condition. The design is phenomenal.

“The main key for success is going to be the short game.

“I’ve always been a pretty good long-game player but the last few years I’ve been working a lot on my short game, percentage-wise there’s more in the short game than the long game.

Me, Brad and Steven can see the improvement, and especially for this course you really need the short game, so I hope the hard work that we’ve spent will pay off.”