After agonisingly missing out on a Tokyo 2020 Olympics spot last year, Hong Kong sailor Russell Aylsworth is only settling for one colour at the Asian Games this September. “I truly believe it when I say that we are the best Asian team,” the 20-year-old said from his training camp in Spain, where he and two-person 49er sailboat teammate Akira Sakai are preparing to peak for Hangzhou 2022. “It really depends on how we do that week – if we’re fully activated and at our physical and mental best. But if we are, I’m sure we will get gold.” Aylsworth, born and raised in Hong Kong to an American father and Malaysian-Chinese mother, started sailing aged eight – “just as a hobby” – before realising he could climb the ranks at the Aberdeen Boat Club and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. It did not take long for the Hong Kong Sports Institute team to come knocking for the then-teen to represent the city at international level. Aylsworth, Sakai and long-time coach Rory Godman – who collectively won Hong Kong’s first-ever 49er bronze medal at the Asian Championships in UAE in 2019 – had audaciously set Tokyo Olympics qualification as their main target at the time. “We hadn’t even sailed the boat before [setting the target],” Aylsworth recalled. They came within touching distance of reaching their goal at last year’s Mussanah Open Championship Asia and Africa Olympic Qualifier . “Other Asian teams in the qualifiers had been sailing for six years more than us – had all this experience on us – and we were just short of qualifying by one point,” said Aylsworth, who last week was one of three elite prospects selected for the University of Hong Kong’s athlete admissions programme worth HK$400,000 in scholarships. #HKU has admitted three athletic & academic high-achievers from HK – ⛷️Alpine skier Adrian Yung, 🎾 tennis player Coleman Wong and ⛵sailor Russell Williams Aylsworth, through the new Top Athletes Direct Admission Scheme. More details at: https://t.co/lLMxjYlsg1 pic.twitter.com/bJ7OJj7fmG — HKU – University of Hong Kong (@HKUniversity) March 15, 2022 He praised the university for its “unprecedented flexibility” for Hong Kong’s athletes, and hopes to start his studies after – you guessed it – Hangzhou. “I’m completely focused on the Asian Games. All my events and training, everything, is geared towards that,” Aylsworth said, explaining Hong Kong’s spot is already confirmed having been “nominated” by organisers this year. “We really want to get a gold medal. What’s tricky about [sailing] is it’s all about the venue. Every venue changes – the wind, current, all these variables will change how you sail your boat, so it’s preparing for that. Sailor Stephanie Norton makes history for Hong Kong with Olympic place “Venues like Hangzhou are very localised. We’ll have a team go out there to scope it out, but we don’t really know what to expect. We also don’t want to have any assumptions or preconceived notions of the venue, so that it doesn’t affect how we approach it.” The key to Aylsworth’s confidence in the sport is his unassailable passion for the craft. He would intermittently take time out of school, and missed his high school graduation and prom, just to compete overseas. That he is already in and among the continent’s best at his age is proof that his dedication over the last decade was well worth it. “Something we do with our sports psychologist every so often is sit down and think about our goals and motivations,” Aylsworth said. “It boils down to what I want to do in life. What’s important to me. And being in a situation where I love what I do every day – and get paid to do it – it would seem silly not to pursue what I love and do the best I can. “Not a lot of people can say they are happy doing what they do every day. I’m just so blessed to be able to.” View this post on Instagram A post shared by Russell Aylsworth (@russ_aylsworth) Beyond this year, Aylsworth hopes to wipe away his Tokyo 2020 regrets by qualifying for the next Games. “That’s the end goal. Get to the Paris 2024 Olympics,” he said. At the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Hong Kong won three silver medals in sailing thanks to windsurfers Michael Cheng Chun-leung (men’s RS:X), Hayley Chan Hei-man (women’s RS:X), and Kikabhoy Rafeek and Ma Kwan-ching (Mixed RS:One). 49er entrants Cheung Ka-ho and Tse Siu-kit finished seventh in their event. Hong Kong’s Tong Yui-shing and Tong Kit-fong won bronze in the hobie 16 at the 2014 Incheon Games, while the city also won bronzes in the 420 and 470 events in 1998 and 1994, respectively. Hong Kong has won four sailing golds at the last four Asian Games, all from windsurfing .