Since 2003, the small mining town of Gallivare, Sweden, has drawn contestants from around the world to resolve an important matter: Who is the best Santa in the world? The competitors, who take part in such important Santa-related events as sleigh pushing, mechanical-reindeer riding and porridge eating, are generally jolly men who sport silver hair and red cheeks. But this year’s silver medalist — along with many medal winners of the past four years — breaks the mold. They’re the Santas from Hong Kong.
Meet Ho Wing-leong, a 130-lb. 21-year-old magician who competes in the Santa Winter Games under the moniker Santa Rainbow. Even though he might seem to have little going for him besides a convenient surname, Ho’s appearance at the games was the result of hard work and not a little financial assistance. To be chosen for the competition, he first had to defeat other contestants in qualifier events back in subtropical Hong Kong. Then he participated in a rigorous 10-day boot camp, paid for by Sun Hung Kai Properties, one of Hong Kong’s largest developers, which covers all the expenses necessary for Santa training, including importing a Swedish sled to practice with. (Wheels, however, had to be attached, since Hong Kong is devoid of snow.)