Barton Lui's four years of sacrifice for Sochi Games over in a flash
Four years of hard training and sacrifice were over in a flash for Barton Lui Pan-to - the first male athlete to represent Hong Kong in the Winter Olympics - at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi yesterday.
The 20-year-old short-track skater finished fifth out of six in the second heat of the men's 1500 metres when only the top three qualified for the next stage. His time of 2 minutes 22.139 seconds was not important as the race was against his rivals, not the clock.
Despite the brevity of his first appearance in the Winter Olympics, Lui knows the experience and the memories will last a lifetime.
"This is the first time I came here, to the Winter Olympics, representing my hometown Hong Kong," he said.
"I am so touched and honoured and so excited to be competing in front of thousands of people in the crowd, and my friends sitting in front of the TV. It is the first time for me to feel so many people on my back.
"They did not really care what my result is or whether I am going to get a gold medal because I am here already. I thank my family and friends and everyone who cares about me and who loves me."
Racing in the same heat as his idol, Victor An, Lui said he was satisfied with his race, but admitted the occasion was a bit too much for him.
"At the moment the referee started the race I am blank, so happy - I have never experienced that before. It is a unique feeling.
"I will treasure this moment and remember it for the rest of my life, and share it with my friends and hopefully my kids."
The 20-year-old, who started skating for fun at Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing when he was 10 years old, watched the 2010 Winter Olympics while he was studying and training in the host city Vancouver.
This stirred his Olympic Games ambition, and since then his parents have largely financed his training in China, with the provincial team in Harbin, and in South Korea.
"I have been travelling everywhere non-stop because I love short track, nothing else," said Lui.
The Winter Olympics is not something that everyone can go to. For four years, every athlete in every country and every skater is fighting for this and surviving all those races and training just to be here."
Lui, who returns to Hong Kong today for a short break before preparing for the world championships, hopes his efforts will increase the profile of winter sports in Hong Kong and lead the authorities to build an Olympic-standard ice rink to attract more youngsters to serious training.
Lui, who was cheered from the stands by his parents, was proud to wear the Hong Kong flag, and commented that he had seen on Facebook a TV caption with the Union Jack in its place.
"Someone said it was just a joke, it was not real," he said.
"It was someone who photoshopped it. It was just the flag and someone made fun and something political about Hong Kong and China.
"It was some joke and that was not going to affect anything."