Thanks to her NBA idol, Kawhi Leonard, Heep Yunn School’s Karen Lau excels in basketball, discus AND handball

Thanks to her NBA idol, Kawhi Leonard, Heep Yunn School’s Karen Lau excels in basketball, discus AND handball

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Karen relies on arm strength to block her opponents’ shots and passes.
Photo: Lee Sum-wing

Some athletes prefer to focus on one sport, but Heep Yunn School’s Karen Lau Fong-ying has discovered that the skills she learns in one discipline can help get her to the next level in another.

Karen, whose strongest sport is basketball, places great emphasis on defence. “My coach’s motto is that good offence wins the game but good defence wins the championship. This is ingrained in my mind,” says the
16-year-old elite athlete.

Alternating between centre or power forward, Karen’s role is to target the shooting guards of the opposing teams. If an opponent drives in, she needs to put her hands up to block a shot or a pass.

“I sort of act as a human shield, so my body needs to be strong enough to block the opponent’s movement,” Karen explains. “But I also have to be agile. For instance, sometimes I try to distract them by pretending to grab the ball. And if my opponent is good at driving to the right and shooting the ball, I force her to the left. This forces her to take shots she isn’t good at.”

And when the opponent misses a shot, Karen has to jump as high as possible to grab the rebound. Strong leg muscles are needed to jump high, and arm strength required to be able to hold on to a rebound.


Ying Wa College's handball stars may be twin brothers, but they are nothing alike on the court


Karen played a key role in helping her team win this year’s Nike All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Basketball Tournament, but she’s also a star in her school’s handball team. In fact, she won the most valuable player award at last month’s All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Handball Tournament, scoring three goals in the second half to help defeat Shek Lei Catholic Secondary School in the championship match. She credits a lot of her skills to watching footage of her NBA idol, Kawhi Leonard, the 2-metre-tall, 105kg forward from the San Antonio Spurs.

“I always learn defensive tactics from Leonard,” Karen says. “Watching him stop his rivals from scoring and passing, he taught me that power plays the most crucial part in sports like basketball or handball.”

And Karen has found that she can apply this technique to other sports, such as discus. “Full-body power plays a vital role in discus,” she says. “Strong arms can help you throw a discus far, but leg power enables you to [spin] fast and generate enormous momentum, which will carry your throw even further.”

But despite her talent, Karen doesn’t enjoy the solo sport. “I prefer playing team sports to discus which always makes me lonely,” she says. “In team sports like basketball, we share every joyful and difficult moment. But in individual sports, you need to face these all alone.”

Karen hopes to help her school defend the championships at next year’s inter-school handball and basketball tournaments.

Until then she’ll be training hard – and watching plenty of Leonard’s videos.


Ying Wa College’s So Kwun-wai on basketball, rivals DBS, and the power of a quick attack


Karen celebrates being named handball MVP.
Photo: Ben Pang/SCMP

Bench notes

What song title best describes you when you’re competing?
Rachel Platten’s Fight Song. The song’s lyrics, “Starting right now I’ll be strong ... Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”, remind me of my fighting spirit. It encourages me to fight hard during training and competitions.

What food would you never give up?
Chocolate. I always eat chocolate before a match because it gives me energy and cheers me up.

If you could have the abilities of any animal for one competition, which would you choose and why?
A chameleon. I’m impressed with its eyesight; it can spot its prey from a long distance. If I had its eyes, I could pass the ball to my teammates more accurately. Also, like a chameleon, I could blend into my surroundings and score without being seen.

Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
Iron Man. He can fly anywhere! If I passed him the ball, he could shoot immediately and we would dominate the game. Plus, he’s cheerful and outgoing, so I’m sure he would always amuse us.

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