Blazing trails

28 Mar 2023

Wong Tsz-to began swimming as a kid, but a swim meet when he was in Primary Six helped point him towards a different direction.

“At the competition, I received a flyer about an aquathon, and I thought I’d give it a try. It got me interested in the sport and eventually in triathlon,” says Tsz-to, a student of the Physical Education and Recreation Management (PERM) programme at HKBU. When most Secondary One students were settling into new schools and trying to come to grips with their new curriculums, Tsz-to was balancing class and triathlon training. At 16, he already represented Hong Kong to compete against the elite in his sport in international races.

Despite the challenges along the way, today the professional triathlete knows he made the right choice, and he has set his sights on the world’s biggest sporting stage: the Olympics.

More than competition

Triathlon, which incorporates swimming, cycling, and running all in one race, may seem grueling to a lot of people, but for Tsz-to, the physical and mental rigours that come with the multisport are something he enjoys. While the routines of training for one sport can get monotonous, triathlon training involves a wider variety of workout options and goals, making it a dynamic sport.

And triathlons are more about personal goals than competition, according to Tsz-to. “What attracts me to take part in a triathlon is that you don’t know what place you’ll finish at until the end of the race. This in turn motivates me to drive myself even further,” he says.

One of the main variables in a triathlon is the location, with runs and bike races being held on trails or roads and swimming events happening in open water including rivers, bays, and the ocean. “The complexity of the sport makes it tricky to define what the best times are, but basically it is your performance against that of the other triathletes. I love how this sport allows me to push myself to the next level and make further breakthroughs,” he says.

Navigating sports and school

The mind to push his limits keeps Tsz-to going not only in triathlons, but also in various professional races. In 2019, he competed in the ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships in Gyeongju, Korea, and took home the silver medal in the U23 men’s event. He won back-to-back championships in the men’s 10 km race in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2021 and 2023. He also represented HKBU and excelled at the 1500m and 5000m races at the Annual Athletic Meet held by The University Sports Federation of Hong Kong.

The title that got him seriously thinking about going professional came at the 2018 Asian Games, where he and his teammates won the bronze medals in the triathlon mixed-gender relay event. Besides being committed to striving for the best in sport, he was also determined to continue his education, and he was admitted to HKBU through the 2020/21 Elite Athletes Admission Scheme (now renamed as the Talented Athletes Direct Admission Scheme).

“As a full-time athlete and part-time student, I really appreciate how the University provides tailored learning support and flexibility in study arrangements. This enables me to continue to pursue my athletic goals while keeping up with my academic studies,” Tsz-to says. He credits his teachers and fellow classmates with helping him do well in the classroom, and he believes the PERM programme at HKBU has expanded his knowledge about sports practice and the discipline of recreation management.

Sprinting to new goals

Eventually Tsz-to sees himself working in sports, but for now one of his immediate goals is to compete in 2023 Asian Games qualifying trials in April. He is also aiming for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“Taking part in triathlon has given me the drive to improve. I hope that I can keep working towards a breakthrough, not only in Hong Kong, but on an international level,” he says.

The sport has taught him important lessons about endurance, hard work, and perseverance through adversity. “When I get to a point where I feel it’s too difficult to make progress, whether in sports or other areas in my life, I will take a deep breath and remind myself to go one step further,” Tsz-to says. “When we go further, our perspective will change, and we can find the strength to carry on.”

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Tsz-to wins his second consecutive title in the men’s 10 km race in the 25th Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon on 12 February 2023.