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Grace Lau aims to win a medal for Hong Kong at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Edmond So

Bad timing for karate star Grace Lau; after an eight-month wait, she returns during Hong Kong’s worst Covid-19 surge

  • The world number four kata exponent is targeting a medal for Hong Kong at the Tokyo Games next summer
  • She left Hong Kong in February and has since been competing and training in Middle East, Europe and United States before returning to Hong Kong

Karate exponent Grace Lau Mo-sheung may have chosen the worst time to return to Hong Kong after being stranded for eight months overseas because of Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.

Lau, a medal hopeful for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, left in February for the Premier Leagues in Dubai and Salzburg, winning a bronze in both tournaments, before moving to what she hoped was a temporary training base in Miami – which at the time was largely untouched by the pandemic.

She only returned to Hong Kong late last month just as the fourth and probably the fiercest round of coronavirus infection surges started to hit the city.

“I was in Tenerife [Spain] after Salzburg waiting for the Morocco Premier League to start but then the event was called off because of the pandemic,” said Lau, the world number four in the women’s kata.

Grace Lau is back in Hong Kong after spending many months training in the United States. Photo: Handout

“Therefore, I flew to Miami where I planned to stay for a training camp until July before flying home to prepare for the 2020 Olympics. But then the Tokyo Games was also delayed and the pandemic situation in Hong Kong showed little improvement, forcing me to extend my stay in Miami.”

The spread of Covid-19 in the United States eventually reached Miami, with the area recording more than 240,000 cases so far. Despite the threat, Lau said she felt safe in Doral – a small city in the western part of the Miami-Dade county.


“The dojo was closed for public courses, leaving only me and my training partner during practice,” she said. “The only other place I would visit in Doral was the supermarket and therefore I felt quite safe in the city, which had a small population of around 40,000.

“But when I came back to Hong Kong, it’s such a small place but is densely populated. If you don’t protect yourself well, you may easily get infected and that would certainly end any Olympic hopes. I am quite happy the Sports Institute has been locked down so that the athletes can have a safe environment for training.”

Grace Lau after her bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Photo: Hong Kong Olympic Committee

Asian Games keeps Hong Kong’s Grace Lau focused amid karate chaos

Lau chose to return home last month because she needed to attend a selection event for March’s Asian Championships. However, the event was cancelled after the government closed most sports venues because of the latest wave of coronavirus infections.

The regional championships in Kuwait would be one of three major events ahead the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics. There are also two 2021 Premier League events in Portugal and Morocco.

“The Morocco one in April has been designated as the last qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics after it was cancelled this year,” said Lau. “Although I am quite safe for a place in the 2020 Games, I still plan to go there for the sake of keeping my world ranking as it will affect the seeding in Tokyo next summer. But of course it will depend on the pandemic situation on whether we can go or not.”

Grace Lau in the women’s kata at the 2018 Asian Games. Photo: Reuters

The top four in the world rankings will be eligible to compete in the Olympics, where a total 10 exponents will battle it out for medals in the women’s kata competition.

“My target is to win a medal for Hong Kong and therefore the seedings will be important,” she said. “But before going to Tokyo, I have to be very careful about my own health and avoid getting the virus, or the Olympic dream will blow up even before I get there.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Grace Lau finally returns home after eight months