‘Powerful engine’ Chiu Hin-chun books his ticket to Rio just three years after picking up sport

Former Hong Kong team windsurfer wasn’t even sure whether he could make it to the Games last year, but will represent the city in men’s lightweight double sculls in Brazil

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 9:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 11:48pm

Windsurfer-turned-rower Chiu Hin-chun has surprised himself and astounded his peers by earning a ticket to the Rio Olympics just three years after picking up the sport.

This is really a very big success, because he did it in such a short period of time
Chris Perry

Chiu was a former member of the Hong Kong windsurfing team, but switched codes in the summer of 2013, not sure how far he will get in his new sport.

A natural rower with a big “engine”, Chiu’s progress in the sport is nothing short of spectacular. He wasn’t even sure he would make it to Rio last year, but last month he pulled off the improbable.

His Olympic dreams were realised when he and partner Tang Chiu-mang qualified for the men’s lightweight double sculls last month, earning his berth to Rio – not bad for an athlete who wasn’t even a rower when the Olympics were last held in London four years ago.

Hong Kong coach Chris Perry has been impressed with how quickly 21-year-old Chiu was able to earn his Rio ticket.

“This is really a very big success, because he did it in such a short period of time,” said Perry.

“He has a very good aerobic engine and he’s definitely a born rower.

“He’s also a big fighter. We had very intense trials earlier this year. We had more than seven athletes trying for the two seats in the double sculls. There was lots of battles and fights and he won pretty much everything. On the rowing machine, he had the best score. On the single scull trials, he had the best time.”

WATCH: Tang Chiu-mang and Chiu Hin-chun share their secrets of success

Encouraged by a secondary school teacher to give rowing a go after impressing on an indoor rowing machine, Chiu started training in the water after finishing his secondary school exams three years ago.

It wasn’t long before he was named in the rowing national “potential” squad and he became a scholarship athlete a few months later.

“I wasn’t gaining outstanding results in windsurfing. They definitely were not as good as my rowing results now,” said Chiu, “I wanted to challenge myself and I’ve succeeded.

“Qualifying for the Olympics was a surprise to me. When I competed at last year's world rowing championships, I didn’t think I could qualify for the Olympics.

“I started to fulfill my potential during the Olympic selections [for the Olympic combination] and kept making steady progress.”

Chiu and Tang, 25, will be joined by sisters Lee Ka-man, 29, and Lee Yuen-yin, 26, in Rio. The Lee sisters will compete in women’s lightweight doubles.

The rowers will depart for training and competitions in Europe on Sunday before heading to Rio directly.

Given the pollution of water sports sites and the threat of Zika virus in the host city, Perry was not too worried. He said the team would use the World Health Organisation and the International Olympic Committee health guidelines and he didn’t think the Games would be cancelled.