Sixteen-year-old Annette Chan, one of Hong Kong’s top young figure skaters and a student at West Island School, is proof that overcoming your fears might just help you find your life’s passion.
“When I was five years old, my mum and I walked past a skating rink while shopping. I was immediately intrigued by the sport, but was too scared to try,” Annette said. “But eventually I was able to [overcome] my fear and went to my first skating lesson with my friends.”
Now she’s a member of the Hong Kong national team and one of the leading young skaters in Asia. She came third in the Asian Junior Figure Skating Challenge in the Elite Junior Ladies’ category in October, and is one of the favourites to win the category in the Hong Kong Figure Skating Championships in April.
Once Annette took that first step and got over her fear, she fell in love with the sport – and that love has only grown.
“When I skate, I am able to relieve myself from the stress of daily life and just focus on skating my best and being in the moment,” she said. “I also love the artistic side of figure skating – it allows me to express myself and also gives me more confidence.”
The Winter Olympics is just around the corner, but Hong Kong doesn’t have a figure-skater representative (in fact, the city only has one athlete competing, 16-year-old Arabelle Ng, a skier). Annette hopes to fill that void in the next Olympics, and also has plans to compete professionally in the United States.
She understands, however, that it won’t be easy, and is aware that figure skating is a difficult and even dangerous sport.
“It’s really easy to get injured as a figure skater, so it’s very important to be careful and take good care of your body,” said Annette. “At the same time, you can’t always worry about getting injured, as you have to be brave in order to land the difficult jumps.”
The key to achieving this difficult balance, she says, is practice.
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“I train almost every day for two to three hours. Every time I go training I have to work on my jumps, spins, footwork and my choreographed routines,” explained Annette, saying that it’s important to train smart. “It’s really important to do warm up exercises before training and cool-down exercises afterwards – that’s how you prevent injuries.”
Another challenge is balancing her high-level training regimen with the notoriously time-consuming IB diploma.
“It is quite difficult to balance my training schedule and school work because of my intense schedules,” said Annette. “I have learned to stay highly organised and use my time wisely. My teachers, family and friends are also very understanding and supportive, so I am very thankful for that.”
As the popularity of figure skating continues to grow in Hong Kong, Annette had some advice for anyone following in her footsteps.
“Do it for yourself and not for others, and don’t be afraid to try new things,” she said. “In this sport there are a lot of ups and downs, so don’t be discouraged if you have a bad day of training. Just forget it and do better next time.”