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Asian Games 2018

Asian Games: Hong Kong’s new generation of male cyclists arrives with golden boy Leung leading the way

The 24-year-old Leung Chun-wing joins forces with Cheung King-lok to win the madison gold in Jakarta and he is looking forward to more Asian domination

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 11:28am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 11:15pm

Leung Chun-wing’s first thought as Hong Kong crossed the finish line to win the men’s track cycling madison gold was “we finally did it”.

But the emotions pouring from his heart ran deeper than simply finishing a race. It was vindication. It was the result of years of hard work, amid doubt and sacrifice, and proved to Leung that Hong Kong’s new generation of male cyclists are ready to sprint out of the shadow of Sarah Lee Wai-sze and past men’s legend Wong Kam-po.

The 24-year-old Leung is at the head of a brigade that also includes his madison teammate, Cheung King-lok.

The reason for hope was the way they won the race. Absent was the traditional Hong Kong-style plucky, against-the-odds triumph. This was a victory for champions. Biding their time, reeling in their opponents and then killing them off with confidence, superior athleticism and without mercy – the kind of scenario Hong Kong athletes often fall victim to.

Asian Games: golden day for Hong Kong on the track as Sarah Lee and men’s madison duo storm to victory

In fact, it was just the kind of thing former Hong Kong road and track champion Wong would have done.

“Since Kam-po retired, a lot of people said the new generation of men’s cyclists in Hong Kong was not ready to take over,” said Leung. “And generally, it was true. What Kam-po achieved was amazing and he was a god in Asian cycling and everyone knows that.

“Now there are new riders coming up like myself and King-lok. Hong Kong is now ready for the new generation of cyclists.”

Leung’s previous best Asian Games performance was a bronze in the men’s road race at the Incheon Games in 2014. He was also fifth in the team pursuit in Incheon. At the Rio Olympics, he finished 11th in the omnium. However, together with Cheung he won the World Cup madison in Minsk for the 2017-18 season.

Cheung is also a six-time Asian champion – four in the madison and once each in the 4,000m individual pursuit and points race.

Much of their success is because of veteran coach Shen Jinkang, who has been in the role for more than 20 years.

“He has played an important role as coach. He is famous and so harsh with us and we are glad to have him,” said Leung.

“I think he realises that after 20 years things need to change a bit. Before Hong Kong was one of Asia’s best and now others such as Japan and Korea are starting to catch up.

“I’m sure afterwards we will meet with the coach and plan what we need to do in the future,” added Leung, who is targeting a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Both riders had extra incentive to do well in Jakarta because their parents were in the stands to cheer them on.

Leung King-yin and Law Yee-lin, the mother and father of Chun-wing and women’s Hong Kong team rider Leung Hoi-wah, said they were proud of their son, even though they do not get to see him often.

“He is a good boy and he has done well for Hong Kong,” said King-yin.

The mother added: “But we don’t get to see him so much. He is always out of Hong Kong training and even when he is in Hong Kong, we don’t get to see him often. But that is how it is.”

Leung thanked his parents for the sacrifices they made so he could pursue a cycling career.

“I feel sorry for them because I am away a lot training, mostly in China,” he said. “Even when I am in Hong Kong I stay in the [Sports Institute] dormitory. So I have to leave them very often. Even now my sister is in the national team and she is also away.

“So I want to thank them for all they have done.”