Balanced unicyclist refuses to take life too seriously
22 July 2004
South China Morning Post
© 2004 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited, Hong Kong. All rights reserved.
Why use two wheels when one will do?
Tomorrow American Stephen Dressler heads to Tokyo with 10 other unicyclists from Hong Kong to compete in the 10-day World Unicycling Games.
The games involve competitions for acrobatics, team sports including hockey and basketball, and unicycle races, and the Hong Kong team hopes to be among the medals.
Mr Dressler, Hong Kong’s representative on the International Unicycling Federation, makes it look so easy as he pops onto the unicycle - no hands and both feet firmly on the pedals.
“Shoulders back, straight back. It should take your body about an hour to find its equilibrium,” he says as a crowd gathers to watch the rather eccentric American beside the clock tower on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui.
“It’s that first hour that kills off about 99 per cent of potential unicyclists,” he says, rolling the unicycle back and forth. He can make it hop as well, and spin.
“Once you get past that first hour, it suddenly dawns on you, wow I’m doing this!”
Mr Dressler, 43, who runs a moving company which keeps him fit, came to Hong Kong in 1985 with the dream of seeing the unicycle acrobats in Shenyang, Beijing and Shanghai. “They’re just awesome and defy laws of gravity. Ever since I began unicycling at the age of nine I had wanted to see them.”
After learning some Putonghua, he headed to the mainland in 1986. During the trip, he and two friends unicycled 3km along the Great Wall.
“We went to the left and to the right as far as we could go,” he says.
When he first came to Hong Kong as a bank employee, he lived at Mui Wo on Lantau and used to unicycle in his suit to the ferry every day.
In 1992, Mr Dressler headed to the unicycling games for the first time, the only Hong Kong competitor in Quebec City.
His partner, Vienna Wong, waved the Hong Kong flag while balancing on his shoulders as he slowly pedalled the unicycle in the parade at the opening ceremony. She was his star student at the time, and he was so impressed, they were married soon after the games.
“The games are held once every two years and began 24 years ago in New York,” he says. “There are track events at the games, including the 100-metre dash, 400 metres, 1,500 metres and 10km marathon.”
Of his hobby and chosen mode of transport, he says: “It’s important not to take life too seriously. This keeps everyone around me smiling.”