Renelle Yuen went from having never played ice hockey, to being a professional referee and a member of the Hong Kong national team within a year.
“One day I tried ice skating and thought it was fun. I had a lot of friends who played ice hockey and, well, I wanted to join them,” said Yuen, who only started playing in 2015.
However, once the 21-year-old Chinese University exercise science and health education student decided she wanted to play the sport, she started training relentlessly.
“There was a period of several months where I practised my skating every day,” Yuen said. “It took about six months before I was really good.”
Her incredible rise from beginner to national player is a testament to her talent and work ethic. However, Yuen remains humble – saying the reason she made the team is because so few Hongkongers play ice hockey – especially females.
“Even though I just started playing [the sport of ice hockey], I am one of the better players on the team,” said the former Methodist College student, hoping to encourage more girls to try the sport.
Yuen believes it’s difficult for Hong Kong to compete with other Asian teams when they “don’t get enough support from the government”.
“Hong Kong doesn’t have enough ice rinks and it’s a very expensive sport to play here,” Yuen said. “So, if we could get more government funding, maybe build more rinks, and get some financial support to the players, maybe more people would try this new sport.”
She said Asia’s best, Japan, recently defeated Hong Kong 46-0. “Luckily, I wasn’t there for that one!” she laughed.
Strangely enough, Yuen’s proudest accomplishment in the sport actually has nothing to do with her playing career.
“I officiated in the World Challenge Cup of Asia in Thailand in March,” she said. “I was a linesman – my job was to conduct the face-offs and make sure players aren’t offside before getting into the attacking zone.”
Although Yuen wants to become a police inspector when she finishes university, she hopes to be involved in the growth of ice hockey in Hong Kong, either as a player or an official.
Ice hockey has a reputation as a very physical sport in which fights break out often, but Yuen says she does not get involved in such incidents. “I’m very calm and gentle when I play hockey,” she said. “[Fighting] is a lot more common with male players.”
Yuen is far fonder of the sport’s lightning-fast pace.
“I was a runner back at Methodist College,” she said. “That’s one reason I love ice hockey so much; I love sports that are high speed, and I’ve always loved competing against others.”
She had some advice for young female athletes thinking of trying ice hockey. “Practise skating first, and after you’re good enough at it, practise stick handling and puck control, and who knows, you might be able to make the national team.”