Albinism has affected his vision, but this HK teen athlete is still a judo pro thanks to hard work and a great mentor

Judoka Adrian Chung has been visually impaired since birth, but will take on any opponent and refuses to let his disorder hold him back

Kelly Ho |

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Judoka Adrian Chung won a silver medal at the Student Judo Championships 2018 in the boys' under 50kg event.

The first thing you might notice when you see Adrian Chung may be his white hair and light skin, but what’s really striking is his skill on the judo mat.

The 15-year-old from Sear Rogers International School was born with albinism, a rare genetic disorder in which the body doesn’t produce much melatonin – the pigment that gives our skin, hair, and eyes colour.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the disorder is also often associated with vision problems. In Adrian’s case, he is left with 0.5 per cent of his vision.

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Adrian, however, was not deterred by his poor eyesight. Rather than taking part in judo competitions for the visually impaired, he has set out to prove he has the skills to take on any opponent.

Adrian told Young Post he still has a lot to work on, but he has certainly come a long way from when he began at the age of six.

“When I first started learning judo, I found it most difficult to learn the moves because I couldn’t see clearly how they were done.”

Adrian's coach and mentor Lee Kan has nearly 30 years' experience training those with vision loss.
Photo: Kelly Ho/SCMP

While his visual impairment may seem to put him at a disadvantage, Adrian says losing one sense heightens the others.

“During my matches, I rely on my remaining vision and my other senses, which improve the more I train. I’ve also memorised the way my opponents carry out their moves.”

Adrian’s hard work and training has definitely paid off, as proved at the Hong Kong Student Judo Championships 2018, held on Sunday, where he earned a silver medal in the senior boys’ under-50kg event.

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The Secondary Four student said he is determined to keep improving, and he’s zeroed in on representing the city in international tournaments such as the Asian Games.

Influenced by his two uncles, who are judo coaches, Adrian developed an interest in the sport at a young age.

However, because his uncles had not taught any visually impaired athletes before, he wasn’t able to excel until he met coach and mentor Lee Kan, who has nearly 30 years’ experience training those with vision loss.

Lee said the key to training athletes like Adrian is to let them feel instead of see the moves, and to go through each manoeuvre step by step.

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Lee also teaches Adrian’s two younger brothers and little sister. Like Adrian, the two Chung brothers have the same genetic disorder. The brothers are all limited to doing indoor activities to prevent sun damage to their skin, but their mother is glad they’ve gained more confidence and become fitter through judo.

“People often make jokes or unfriendly comments when they see my kids, but they have great support for one another because of their common hobby, and they remain very cheerful,” she said.

Adrian said he is determined to continue showing people that anyone can achieve anything they put their mind to, and plans to take on more local judo championships.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda