‘Incredible’ Olympic Experience
The short-track speed skater represented Hong Kong at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and served as flag bearer during the opening ceremony.
by Kristen Mitchell
George Washington University alumnus and short-track speed skater Sidney Chu, B.S. ’21, fulfilled his lifelong dream of competing on Olympic ice in February. In the days following the race, Chu says his experience representing Hong Kong still felt like a dream.
“It was surreal to see the Olympic rings everywhere in every corner of the stadium and the village; the Olympic rings would even be on every single food packaging too,” he says. “It was awesome to meet other athletes from other nations, and I still can't believe I’m an Olympian now.” (For a story on GW’s other Winter Olympics competitor, bobsleder, five-time medalist and this year’s Commencement speaker Elana Meyers Taylor, click here.)
Chu was the first athlete to represent Hong Kong in the 500 short-track speed skating, where he finished 24th. The 22-year-old represented Hong Kong alongside two alpine skiers. When his teammates had to quarantine due to COVID-19 safety precautions, Chu had the “surreal” experience of walking in the 2022 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony as Hong Kong’s flag bearer.
“I felt a little disheartened that, due to COVID precautions, they weren't allowed to take part in the opening ceremony. It would have been nice to show the world that a small city with a tropical climate was presenting its biggest Winter Olympic delegation in history,” he says. “Nevertheless, it was heartwarming to see the cheerful and happy faces of the volunteers walking into the stadium, and it was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.”
Chu’s race didn’t go as planned. He clipped blades with an opponent from the Netherlands during the start, which impacted his ability to get a good grip on the ice, he says. Despite not making it to the quarterfinals, he’s happy with his result. Being on the starting line alongside world record holder and Olympic champion Wu Dajing from China was an incredible honor, he says.
Chu, who majored in biology and public health, trained at the Potomac Speedskating Club throughout his time at GW. The Washington, D.C., region has become a hotspot for speed skating athletes over the past few decades, and the opportunity to train with elite coaches and athletes was a driving factor in Chu’s decision to come to the university.
Chu grew up in Los Angeles and began training with the Hong Kong national team when he relocated to the city during high school. He hoped to make it to the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but was sidelined with an injury three months before Olympic trials.
Chu represented GW and Hong Kong in the 2019 International Sports Federation World Winter University Games, and since graduating last year, he increased his training time from four to five hours a day to up to 10.
Chu and his teammates competed on the World Cup circuit to secure a spot for Hong Kong at the Olympic Games. Chu crossed the globe over the past few months in pursuit of his goal, racing in China, Japan, Hungary, France and the Netherlands, where he gained much needed international competition experience that was impossible during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chu was selected by the Hong Kong national team to fill that spot, punching his ticket for Olympic competition.
He hopes his appearance at the Olympics generates excitement for the sport and encourages more youth in Hong Kong to pursue speed skating.
Chu described a sense of “togetherness and friendliness” that accompanied his Olympic experience. Athletes from countries that might otherwise have a tense relationship outside the world of sports are able to trade pins and make friends within the Olympic village, he says.
“Everyone, including the volunteers, were incredibly friendly and supportive,” Chu says. “Although we were all wearing our team uniforms, inside the village, there didn’t seem to be any boundaries between teams. The Olympic spirit seems to be real.”
Photography: Lisa Delpy Neirotti