Most sports stars start small, but Minnie Soo Wai-yam found her love when she was even more mini than most.
"I loved the sound of ping pong when I was young," the 17-year-old Diocesan Girls' School student recalls. She remembers watching her father coach table tennis players at his training centre, Soo Chun Wah Table Tennis Training Centre, in Kowloon. Even at two years old, she loved watching the sport - although she couldn't quite see over the table yet. "I started playing at four years old, when my height finally reached the table," she says.
And after 13 years of playing, table tennis isn't just about the sound of the ball anymore for Minnie. "What attracts me most is the exhilaration of speed and the variations in speed, power and spin," she says.
Minnie is also a full-time athlete at Hong Kong Sports Institute, and spends much of her time competing or training with her coach. She says this can often be the biggest challenge, not because of the need to strike a balance between academics and sports, but because of the clash of strong personalities. "I think the biggest challenge in playing table tennis is the interaction between my coach and I," she admits. "We have the same goals - to improve and win - yet we often have different ideas and opinions on techniques and playing styles."
Despite their differences of opinion, their teamwork has paid off. Minnie was the bronze medallist in the 2015 Asian Championships, and has set her sights on even bigger goals. "My ultimate goal is to be a medallist at the Olympics," she says. "However, I will have to fight for my qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games."
And that means more battles of will between Minnie and her coach lie ahead. "We argue a lot and I am always very upset," she says. "Yet, I know that he has guided and helped me through most of my professional career, so I usually still listen to him."
What song/movie title best describes you when you're playing your sport?
Hunger Games is the closest movie I can relate to right now. Fast, thrilling, calculating, full of twists. Table tennis is a sport that needs great reflexes, quick adaptability, high speed and a strong mentality. We work out our opponent's moves to make decisions whether to attack or to defend, to play fast or slow, short or long, with spin or with power.
If you could have any superpower for 24 hours, what would you choose and how would you use this power?
I would like to have the superpower of being fearless. This way, I can face anything, try anything. It might help a lot in my table tennis career and also add a lot more excitement to my life! Moreover, I wouldn't be afraid of wrong decisions and failures so I can simply listen to what is in my heart, to look ahead and move forward.
If you could have an unlimited supply of anything, what would it be and why?
I would love an unlimited supply of time. I always wished that time could move slower so that I could have sufficient, or even more, time to practise and for studies and still have time for hobbies such as reading, writing stories, and to hang out with school friends.
If you were a famous athlete 10 years into the future, what company would you sign on as spokesperson for, and what product would you promote?
I'd love to sign with Butterfly, a famous table tennis brand. I like everything about Butterfly - its clothes, socks, shoes, bags, tracksuits, even the rubbers and racquets.