How this troubled teen defied the odds to fulfill his dream

June 27, 2019

Mak showcasing his acceleration at the 2019 Lisbon Sevens, honed by hours of strenuous gym work and training. 

Photo credit: Luis Cabelo

 

Away from the bright lights, hype and fanfare that typifies the Hong Kong Sevens build-up, Operation Breakthrough had something else to cheer about. 

 

The reason was simple; a week prior to kickoff, the provisional shortlist for the Hong Kong Sevens squad was announced - presenting the city's strongest possible selection to defend Hong Kong's colours. 

 

It also featured a certain inclusion that dangled the tantalising prospect of a Hong Kong Sevens debut for one of their own graduates. 

 

For a programme which works closely with disadvantaged teens and young people at risk to equip them with the skills to flourish in life, there would have been no greater reward. 

 

One for the future: Mak (front row, second from left) is tipped to be a key member of the Hong Kong squad.

Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU)  

 

The same could have been said for the player in question, Mak Kwai-chung.

 

Athletic and wiry in stature, the 23-year-old's journey started with touch rugby, initially joining his two elder brothers who were already part of Operation Breakthrough. 

 

"I started playing touch rugby in primary school and so I already had an interest in the sport," said Mak.   

 

"When I had the opportunity to play rugby later on, I seized it immediately." 

 

At 23 years of age, Mak has already established himself as one of Operation Breakthrough's finest.

 

And once he seized it, there was no letting go.  

 

Upon receiving his Hong Kong call-up, the USRC Tigers speedster has wasted no time impressing the HKRU higher-ups.

 

Earning his first cap at the 2018 Fiji Coral Coast Sevens, he has since featured in the Amsterdam Sevens and Singapore Cricket Club Sevens.  

 

Armed with newfound international experience, Mak was a force of nature in this year's Borneo Sevens as he let loose with a sensational seven tries and muscled his way into head coach Paul John's considerations.

 

Heir-apparent: does Mak have the potential to become the next poster boy of Hong Kong Rugby? 

Photo credit: HKRU  

 

Despite missing out on the final cut, he believes it will only be a matter of time before he emulates the likes of club and national teammates Salom Yiu and Cado Lee Ka-to. 

 

"Coming this close to making the team makes me believe that I am capable of playing at international level," said Mak.

 

"It gives me a confidence boost that I will no doubt carry into future matches." 

 

While brimming with talent, the winger shuns individualism in favour of an emphasis on teamwork - an attitude nurtured since his Operation Breakthrough days. 

 

"Rugby is a team sport and so being able to talk to your teammates is very important."

 

Mak makes his presence felt at the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens. Photo credit: David Clifton Photography 

 

"Aside from helping me grow as a rugby player, the programme taught me a lot about interpersonal communication." he added. 

 

However, Mak's ambition and hunger for success remains ravenous as ever and the winger is on a mission to realise a singular yet ubiquitous dream. 

 

"Going forward, I hope to represent Hong Kong at more international competitions in the coming year," said the 23-year-old. 

 

"But the ultimate goal for me is definitely to play in the Hong Kong Sevens."

 

Whatever Mak sets his sights on thereafter, it would certainly take a brave man to bet against him. 

 

 

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