Sporting chance

Sporting chance

You don't have to leave town to put yourself to the test playing some unusual games

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Kent De Jesus (left) and Tayyab Shahzada get to grips with baseball.
Kent De Jesus (left) and Tayyab Shahzada get to grips with baseball.
Photos: Leon Lee/SCMP
Who says you can't ski in Hong Kong? Young Post's junior reporters sought to prove that idea wrong by visiting PLAY, an indoor multi-level entertainment centre in Kwun Tong, which offers sports new to Hong Kong. PLAY makes it possible to try popular sports including skiing, snowboarding, baseball and softball. So we sent off our intrepid reporters to try out some of these activities. Let's see what they discovered ...

In the swing of it

Being new to the sport of baseball, we started with some basics: how to hold the bat, the proper positions in which to stand and swing, and how to (try to) strike the ball.

It never looked too difficult when those professionals swung away on the television, but when we tried, it was a different story. It requires a lot of strength and control to get a good hit.

Baseball is not common in Hong Kong; getting to play made us feel as if we were in another universe.

At PLAY, the pitching machines gave us a chance to practise our batting. For those who have never seen one, it pitched balls like a real pitcher at a baseball game, so that batters - like us - could practise how to hit the ball.

Trying baseball was something I'd never done before. Learning a new sport that's utterly different from other ones that I've played was fun, and I look forward to sharing my experiences of the sport with other people.

Kent De Jesus


Safety always comes first

When playing a sport, you always have to be aware of your surroundings. For instance, with baseball, you never know if you are going to be hit by a bat on the back of the head - or worse, in your face. So you must follow all the safety rules.

We started off at the training area for beginners. After we got the general idea, we headed into PLAY's automatic indoor baseball and softball batting area. There were five cages for baseball and softball. A pitching machine in each cage shot balls as we tried to bat them back. Wearing helmets was compulsory.

Then we tried skiing and snowboarding. Since I had already skied, I decided to try snowboarding. The first thing I noticed was that snowboarders have to put on a lot of things to protect themselves: we wore protective pads to our knees, elbows and wrists. Our instructor told us that snowboarding is a lot harder than skiing and, as a result, we would fall down more often.

How I wish I had listened to her! I fell flat on my face three times. Luckily, because of the safety gear, I wasn't hurt. But because my knee patches became loose when I fell, I still got bruised. See how important safety gear is?

Doris Lam


Exhausting but fun


Janet Choi, Henry Lui and Tayyab Shahzada learn the essential art of stopping before hitting the barrier.

We all know that skiers wear skis on their feet and hold two poles. Experienced skiers may make it look easy, but the sport is not as simple as it seems - at least, not when my turn came.

It was hard to balance on the skis on artificial snow, or on the rotating ski-mill. It put a lot of strain on your legs to control the skis and steer. It was even harder as we were trying to go uphill; we always felt as if we were sliding back.

I was exhausted after a few attempts. But it was an interesting sport, and I would love to try it again.

Some people may think it is not fun to ski indoors. But people living in places where it doesn't snow should be thankful that there is a place where they can at least try it.

Although the indoor ski playground lacked beautiful views, it did have its merits. Skiing is a dangerous and challenging sport, and it is safer to do it indoors than out on mountain slopes, especially for beginners.

Also, mountain skiing depends heavily on the weather; you can ski only when there is snow. So reaching a resort, only to find out that there is a fearsome snowstorm, or no snow at all, would be such a joy-killer.

An indoor ski park, on the other hand, solves the problem of unpredictable weather. You can even ski near the equator during the hot summer. Now, that's impressive.

Janet Choi


Technology proves real star

Behind all the wonderful fun in the sports centre is sophisticated technology and equipment. The PLAY centre is home to Hong Kong's only non-stationary ski slope, which can reach speeds of more than 20km/h.

The moving surface can be adjusted, too, to different gradients, so that it could can a more realistic experience to enthusiasts; it allows them to build and improve their skills step by step.

For those less daring, there is also a stationary slope for beginners. If that is still not enough incentive for teens to have a try, the centre also has a large variety of skis and boots included in the lesson fee so novices don't have to buy their own.

Henry Lui


No business like snow business


Snowboarding proves more difficult than Imogen Butler expected: there's no friction.

We headed to the ski room, and a white slope appeared in front of us. It looked steep, but short. Skiing, or snowboarding straight down them would take, at most, a few seconds. But all was not as it appeared. The slope was, in fact, a giant, white treadmill, and, as it rotated, we each skied on the same static point.

Before we stepped onto the slope with our skis and snowboards, the instructors sprayed water on the specially carpeted treadmill to make it more slippery.

Our instructor told us skiing or snowboarding on an indoor slope would be more difficult than on real snow, as there would be no friction to slow us down.

However, unlike on a mountain, the treadmill can be stopped as soon as you fall over. This was especially important because you found ourselves falling heaps of times as soon as the treadmill started.

Imogen Butler

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