89th Congregation (2020)
Dr SHEN Jinkang
Han Yu, a famous prose writer of the Tang Dynasty, once said that without a master scout like Bole, the world would know very few Seabiscuits or other famous equines. In the cycling sport arena of Hong Kong, we can borrow Han Yu’s saying to the effect that without Dr Shen Jinkang taking up coaching in Hong Kong, the world would know very few star cycling athletes. This is indeed not an overstatement. When you have outstanding sportspersons, you are sure to find an eminent coach behind them. Another way of putting it is: Hong Kong now has scores of outstanding cycling athletes, therefore we are bound to have a distinguished coach like Dr Shen. Miss Lee Wai-sze, one of the eminent athletes who received training from Dr Shen, once summarized her bonding with Dr Shen with the Chinese character cheng (承). The character first appeared in the ancient Oracle Bone Script, with its lower portion resembling two raised hands whereas the upper portion is like a man kneeling. It is as if someone is firmly supporting another in both hands, just like Dr Shen, her beloved mentor, supporting her steadfastly throughout her journey in sports. The ancient anthology of lexicons Shuowen Jiezi defines the character’s meaning as ‘dedicate oneself and bear responsibility’. The definition is a good illustration of a first-class mentor who looks upon his mentees as his own children, and who will wholeheartedly provide guidance and advice for them, point them to the right direction and help them open up new paths, all of which lead to spectacular achievements again and again.
The bicycle, a two-wheel manually-driven vehicle, is called ‘zi xing che’ in Putonghua and ‘dan che’ in Cantonese. Either appellation fits nicely in the universal recognition in both mainland China and Hong Kong of Dr Shen as the most outstanding cycling athlete and coach. Since his birth in Shanghai in 1953, cycling has been Dr Shen’s lifelong passion. At the age of 20, he won the cycling championship at the county level and was recruited by the Shanghai Cycling Team. Within a year, he was selected into the China National Cycling Team. As the most outstanding cycling athlete, he pocketed all the championships of the mid to long distance road cycling competitions in China. Unfortunately, during a morning training session with his teammates in Taicang City of Jiangsu Province in 1980, Dr Shen had a road accident. In an attempt to protect his teammates, he purposely did not steer away from an approaching truck. While his teammates could avoid the accident unscathed, Dr Shen ended up being struck by the truck and had to have his left leg amputated. This horrible accident meant that Dr Shen had to retire, albeit reluctantly, from cycling, putting an abrupt end to his athlete’s career. The accident had not thwarted Dr Shen’s passion in the cycling sports. A youngster with a strong will and astonishing tenacity, Dr Shen believed that even with just one leg, he could still make good use of his brain. Three days after the accident, he picked up his books, while still lying in the hospital bed nursing his wound, and started preparing for the ‘gao kao’, China’s National College Entrance Examination (NCEE). Deep in his heart, he knew that only knowledge is able to revolutionize the cycling sports in China. As soon as he was discharged from the hospital, he took the NCEE. In the end, he was admitted to the Shanghai University of Sport (SUS).
Dr Shen was an outstanding student at SUS. Upon graduation, he was accepted by the Beijing Sport University, where he obtained a Master’s degree. He was by then deeply convinced that when one could no longer continue to be a sportsperson, one still could choose to be a coach. His top priority was always to give the best he could to his motherland. During his university years, he continued to train the Shanghai Cycling Team. He applied various sports science techniques in the training of cyclists, such as the control of blood lactic acid, the monitoring of heart rate, and the use of wireless intercom, etc. All these had helped the Shanghai Cycling Team win a great number of gold medals. He also wrote a research paper on the adoption of heart rate control in training, introducing a revolutionary concept into competitive cycling. This paper brought him the most prestigious award in sports science research. It could be said that Dr Shen is the first person in China to have adopted sports science and technological measures in the training of cycling athletes.
In 1985, Dr Shen was elected by unanimous votes as the Head Coach of the National Men’s Cycling Team. This was the first time China had ever held a popular vote for the selection of a head coach. The following year, Dr Shen led the National Team to participate in the Asian Games in Seoul, and the Team won the first ever Gold Medal in cycling. He was later appointed Chief Coach of the National Cycling Team of China. Under his leadership, the National Team enjoyed a long period of dominance in the cycling sports. Because of his tenacity and foresight, he had garnered both fame and glory for his motherland. From an outstanding cycling athlete to a master cycling trainer, Dr Shen has rightfully deserved his fame and stature in the cycling sports.
The year 1994 marks another turning point in Dr Shen’s life, and a big challenge for him as well. That year, he was sent to Hong Kong by the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission for six months as visiting coach. His mission was to help the Hong Kong cycling teams get into the top six positions in the Asian Games at Hiroshima. In those days, the Hong Kong cycling teams had no full-time coach, were rather disorganized and, on top of all these, lacked sufficient funding and training facilities, all of which put the teams under the most undesirable condition and great strain. Dr Shen, however, was not to be daunted. Shortly after arriving in Hong Kong, he started recruiting young and talented cyclists into his teams. As it turned out, he enlisted the first and the only full-time cycling athlete in Hong Kong, Mr Wong Kam-po. To alleviate the financial worries of Mr Wong so that he could devote himself fully to training, Dr Shen even gave him half of his salary to put his mind at ease. He even approached the Cycling Association of Hong Kong in order to raise additional stipend for the athlete. Adversities, however, did not prevent Dr Shen from turning Wong into a sterling athlete within six months through hard drills. Mr Wong finished fourth in the Men’s Road Race Competition in the Hiroshima Asian Games. After that event, Mr Wong gratefully said to Dr Shen, ‘For as long as you are the coach of the Hong Kong team, I will follow you and remain a team member.’ Because of this pledge, Dr Shen made up his mind to stay behind to continue his tutorship of Mr Wong and other athletes. Since then, Mr Wong, under the guidance of Dr Shen, continued to break new grounds in the cycling sports arena and ultimately became a star cyclist, earning himself the accolade, ‘Asia’s God of Cycling’. The story of mentor and protégé has become an oft-told legend in the sports circle.
Dr Shen is famed for his strenuous demands on athletes. He wholeheartedly devotes himself to coaching, often forsaking rest and even sleep. He puts his trainees through the most strenuous physical training, thus earning himself the nickname ‘Devil Coach’. Although his demands are arduous, he is caring and patient with his trainees. He also places great emphasis on integrity and morality in sports, and sets a good example himself for his trainees to follow, hoping to turn them all into upright and all-round sportspersons. His support and care for his trainees, whether in practical or spiritual terms, are full and unsolicited. He is affectionately described as the coach who upholds stern discipline but has the tenderness of an angel. Under the wings of Dr Shen, a great number of outstanding cycling athletes have emerged in Hong Kong, such as Chan Chun-hing, Kwok Ho-ting, Wong Wan-yiu, Lee Wai-sze, etc. All of them have won accolades at national and international competitions and help elevate the standing of the Hong Kong Cycling Team, and each story a homemade miracle in itself.
To acknowledge the exceptional contributions of Dr Shen, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government awarded him the Chief Executive’s Commendation for Community Service in 1999, followed by the Medal of Honour in 2006, and the Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2011. Furthermore, since 2000 Dr Shen has repeatedly received the Hongkong Bank Foundation Coaching Awards in Cycling. He was also invited to serve as a member of the Elite Sports Committee under the HKSAR Home Affairs Bureau, devoting his time and energy to the development of strategies and long-term objectives for elite athlete training programmes in Hong Kong.
Mr Chairman, Dr Shen is not only an outstanding cycling athlete but also an ingenious coach. He applies technological means to help raise the sport. He trains athletes through sharing his battle-hard experiences. To that end, he has served the nation well and helped bring honour to his motherland. His contributions to the cycling sports are exemplary and the dazzling accomplishments of the athletes under his tutorship speak volumes about his efforts. The training style of Dr Shen is strict but superb, and he is deeply trusted and respected by his students. For many years, he has been selflessly championing the novice athletes in Hong Kong. He is the Bole of star athletes, passionately dedicating his service to, and passing both his valuable knowledge and counsel on, the young cyclists. The relationship between mentor and protégés can be vividly portrayed by the Chinese character cheng (承), which means ‘inheritance’. The outstanding students very often have a stern and demanding teacher behind them; and students and teacher will together bring about miraculous results in any field they participate in. Mr Chairman, in view of the aforesaid distinguished achievements of Dr Shen, it is my privilege to present to you Dr Shen Jinkang for the award of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa.