Diocesan Girls’ School (DGS) athletics team co-captain Gianne Mak Tsz-yan, 16, recalls an unforgettable moment when she was the school’s junior javelin thrower. “The previous co-captains were like angels. I won’t forget how heroic and encouraging they were, especially the way they fought against the odds and boosted our morale.”
Another 16-year-old co-captain and sprinter Avril Chan Tak-yan had a similar experience. She told Young Post that the former school team co-captains often pointed out how she usually started well in the 400m race, and gave her tips about the best point in the race where she could try to speed up.
Both Avril and Gianne were eager to follow in the footsteps of their mentors. But before becoming the school’s athletics team co-captains, Avril and Gianne fought hard to achieve individual success. The girls said their struggles enabled them to share with junior athletes their experiences in terms of their techniques, and physical and mental toughness.
In September, Gianne won a gold medal in the Girls’ A2 Grade javelin (500g) at the Watsons Athletic Club Annual Challenge 2016 with a throw of 37.70 metres, which was also a record in the category. Last year’s Inter-school Athletics Competition saw Avril win gold in the B-grade girls’ 400m race.
“Being a captain is a totally different story,” says Gianne. “In the past, I only focused on my individual performance. But following in the footsteps of my ‘angels’, I need to technically and psychologically support my teammates.
“The most difficult task is boosting our team’s cohesion. Unlike our biggest opponent, Good Hope School, which has one main team coach, the DGS team has different coaches for different races. It’s never easy to bridge the gap between us.”
“With the co-captains’ help, we hope that athletes will be more prepared for the upcoming Inter-school competition,” says Avril.
Avril and Gianne both place great emphasis on boosting team spirit. They set up a special three-day camp at DGS in December, where their teammates could train together and take part in team-building activities. The idea was to make the team feel like they’re part of a family, so they can celebrate success and face challenges together, the girls said.
The team has also set a clear goal – taking home the overall title of the Division One Inter-school Athletics Competition (Kowloon and Hong Kong Island) for the 11th time in a row. Day one of the event will be held tomorrow at Wan Chai Sports Ground.
Gianne will take part in the A-grade girls’ discus and javelin throw, while Avril will vie for honours in the A-grade girls’ 400m and long jump. Both athletes said they aren’t stressed because they are well-prepared for the competition.
But that doesn’t mean they think it will be easy. Their training sessions have certainly been tough. Avril has been focusing on perfecting her sprint to the finish line in the 400m race.
“I try to learn from American sprinter Allyson Felix, who showcases her explosive power by accelerating in the last 50 metres. I also study how she coordinates her arm and leg movements,” she says.
In the javelin and discus, Gianne stresses the importance of mental preparation. “The crucial task is to coordinate every movement and achieve a big throw. During every throw, no distractions are allowed. The only thing I can do is to stay focused and make sure I have a strong throw.”
If you could have the abilities of any animal for one competition, which one would you choose and why?
Avril: A wolf. Even though they live independently, they’re usually stronger, aggressive and fearless. I need to be able to intimidate others during competitions.
What drink would you never give up?
Avril: Pocari Sweat. I need it because I dehydrate easily after intense sprints and runs.
Who is your favourite athlete?
Gianne: German javelin thrower Thomas Rohler. He’s good at combining everything, like power, speed and coordination, into one big throw. His success at the Rio Olympics always reminds me that I have to coordinate every single movement powerfully and smoothly before throwing the javelin.
How do you reward yourself after intense competitions?
Gianne: I treat myself to chocolate. It’s a sweet reward after I finish a tough match.