Eschewing the Hong Kong way, Ngai Kang opts for a life running marathons and an Olympic dream
The 24-year-old needs to improve leaps and bounds to make Tokyo but still has
Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles four years later as a backup
Ngai Kang pressed the reset button on his value system, ditched the idea of a life in the disciplinary forces and went running marathons instead.
Now a leading distance runner, 24-year-old Ngai wants to become the first Hong Kong men’s marathon runner at the Olympic Games, with the 2020 Tokyo Games in his sights.
“I planned to join the disciplinary forces so I could have a secure life in a society where money always comes first,” said Ngai.
“But after I started distance running, my value system changed as I found my real passion as it’s more than just a stable life.
“I quit my clerical job in 2016 for training and became a full-time athlete last year to pursue my dream in sports.”
In his first ever marathon, he was the fastest local runner in last year’s Standard Chartered Marathon.
“I achieved the same result at the half-marathon in the 2016 event (the fastest home runner) but no one took any notice,” he said. “I therefore wanted to try the full marathon and see if there would be any difference if I managed the same.
“But having said that, it’s also normal to start step-by-step in distance running, from 10k to the half-marathon before moving to the full race of 42.195 kilometres.”
Ngai finished his first marathon in two hours, 32 minutes and 39 seconds and improved his time to 2:30:08 when he represented Hong Kong for the first time in the Asian Championship in China three months ago.
Now he is dreaming big.
“We have only had female marathon runners at the Olympic Games and it would be a great achievement if I could become the first in the men’s event,” he said.
“But there is still a big gap to close if I want to achieve the qualifying time and need some big leaps in a short period of time.
“Even so, I can still plan for Paris in 2024 or even Los Angeles four years later as I am still young in marathon where the top runners can reach their peak until mid 30s. The Olympic Games remains the biggest dream, no matter how long it takes.”
Ng Lai-chu and Yuko Gordon ran the marathon at the Los Angeles Games in 1984 before Maggie Chan Man-yee qualified for the 2004 Athens Games but did not take part after suffering a bone fracture before the Games.
At the 2016 Rio Games, Christy Yiu Kit-ching finished in a creditable 39th place.
Ngai would need to improve his speed in every 10 kilometres by two to three minutes to make the marathon qualifying time for Tokyo.
“My best time in 10k is 33 minutes and you need at least 31 minutes to qualify. There is a lot of hard work ahead,” he said.
The qualifying time has not yet been set for Tokyo, but is likely to be similar to Rio’s 2:19.00.
Ngai was recruited to the Sports Institute elite programme after his success last year but in the potential category where he receives no financial backing but only training and facilities support.
“Men’s marathon in Hong Kong is in a relatively low standard and there is still a long way to go before we can reach the elite level,” he said.
“I was lucky to have the support of my own running club with a living allowance for 12 months. I may need to start some coaching job soon to sustain my life as the allowance is about to finish.
“But it won’t stop me from pursuing my marathon dream. I can still work as a part-time coach and go for training at the same time.
“This happens to many athletes in Hong Kong and hopefully it will change once I have achieved some better results in the future,” said Ngai.
With the 2018 event only days away, he said it would be a marked man this time.
“It was a surprise to other runners as I came from nowhere last year. But I will certainly become a target on Sunday,” said Ngai.
“There is nothing to worry about. Marathon is always challenging, just like life.”