Hong Kong's greatest sports heroes

Hong Kong's greatest sports heroes

Think Hong Kong's short on legendary athletes? Think again

"San San," Olympic windsurfer

Asia sports heroesSan San

Lee Lai Shan, known affectionately as "San San," won Hong Kong's first-ever Olympic gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The female windsurfer's achievement was monumental for Hong Kong -- in the media frenzy that followed, San San famously proclaimed, "Hong Kong athletes are not rubbish!"

Shortly thereafter Hong Kong was gripped by a city-wide optimism that's been unmatched since, save perhaps when the Hang Seng Index hit 30,000 points in late 2007.

The Cheung Chau native has since started a family with former teammate Wong Tak-sum and was the first to run the Hong Kong leg of the 2008 Olympic torch relay.

Hong Kong has yet to garner another Olympic gold.

Bruce Lee, martial arts legend

Asia sports heroesBruce Lee

The silver screen fighter made martial arts the most glorified sport to come out of China, founded his own kung fu style, and put Hong Kong on the world martial arts map.

As a teen, the belligerent Lee trained under kung fu master Ip Man and quickly displayed a talent for wing chun, a popular branch of Southern Chinese martial arts. Reckoning that traditional martial arts rituals were too ornamental for street fighting, he developed his own system of flexible blows he called jeet kune do in 1965.

At 31, the hunk moved to Hollywood and unleashed a global kung fu phenomenon. At a time when fight films were unaided by special effects, Lee’s ability to perform superhuman feats, such as a two-fingered push up and the lethal one-inch punch, was jaw-dropping for Western audiences. It still wows us today.

Patrick Lam, equestrian

Asia sports heroesPatrick Lam jumps for joy after taking gold at the 11th National Games.

Hong Kong rider Patrick Lam shot to sports stardom when he upstaged the world No. 1 in an Olympic equestrian race in 2008. The 26-year-old Lam outshone world champion stadium jumper Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany when he flawlessly completed the preliminary round of showjumping. He didn’t end up taking the gold, but he did bag a HK$5 million equine scholarship by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The Chinese-Austrian jumper recently made headlines again by taking gold at the 11th National Games in men’s equestrian jumping. With the wind at his back, expect more great things from this talented jockey.

Wong Kam-po, cyclist

Asia sports heroesWong Kam-po

Wong's coach of 15 years, Shen JinKang, stills remembers when he found out that Hong Kong had no professional cyclists on the official team, and that Wong was the only person who signed up for professional training. Wong has since inspired a whole generation of professional cyclists.

Possibly Hong Kong's most evergreen champion athlete, the cyclist has won practically every top title within the cycling scene and has never returned home empty-handed from China's National Games. This year, the permanently Lycra-clad sports hero won his third gold medal at the 11th National Games -- at the ripe "old" age of 36.

Marco Fu, best rookie snooker player

Asia sports heroesMarco Fu

Marco Fu started playing snooker when he was nine years old and turned professional at age 20 in 1998. In his rookie year, he reached the final of the Grand Prix, beating Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan and then Peter Ebdon.

For the rest of the season, Fu qualifed for four more ranking tournaments including the World Championship. He was voted by World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association as Newcomer of the Year and World Snooker Association Young Player of the Year in 1999.

It seems that Fu rose too fast too soon -- after being tipped as the Hong Kong wunderkind to take over the future world of international snooker, Fu's subsequent performance was less than impressive and he slid in ranking.