Not many schools offer rock climbing in PE lessons, so how how did Sarah Leung become such a pro? And what motivates her to continue?
The 15-year-old from Creative Secondary School has been rock climbing since she was eight. She started because she was a very active child who didn’t like to sit still. Nearly eight years later, she’s won local competitions, and represented Hong Kong on the mainland.
So what’s its appeal? “This sport is challenging,” Sarah says, adding, ”rock climbing requires whole body strength – and I think it is good for my health.”
Sarah trains for three hours every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night. Although this might limit the time she has to do other activities, she loves her practice sessions.
“I really enjoy climbing, so I never see it as a waste of my time. I’ve also made a lot of friends through climbing, so it makes me very happy.”
That’s not to say her gradual rise has been easy. There have been challenges quite apart from those presented by the wall.
“I have thought about giving up rock climbing before. At first I didn’t have a lot of friends who climbed, so I found it lonely and I had no motivation to improve or continue.
“I was also getting pressure from my family members about my grades at school which made me consider giving up. My parents wanted me to quit.” But in the end, Sarah says, her love for the sport was just too great. And while there have been times where she has felt frustrated by the activity, she has stuck to it, and continues to do so, whatever other issues she faces.
Sarah won her first championship in an interschool competition when she was in Primary 5, and her hard work and dedication continue to pay off. She has won two senior interschool competitions and competed in the 10th National Youth Rock Climbing Championships in Hebei last year.
“I had a chance to compete with all those wonderful and amazing climbers. Although I only took fourth place, I gained a lot of experience which has allowed me to improve and be a better climber.”
Sarah hopes the challenging sport will become more common activity in Hong Kong, and she would love to be involved in promoting it.
“Rock climbing is becoming more common globally these days – there will even be a climbing event at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.”
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And Sarah hopes one day to compete amongst those strongest, quickest climbers, but acknowledges that currently that’s unlikely. “I want to compete in the Olympics, but I feel like the system in Hong Kong does not allow me to. I hope the government will provide more resources to help fuel Hong Kong athletes’ careers and dreams.
The struggle to become a full-time athlete in the city is stressful, especially for student athletes, who tend to be told that only academic success guarantees future happiness.
But Sarah still encourages other teens to give her beloved sport a go, and has some tips. “My advice for beginners is to stay safe, be careful and don’t be too ambitious. I’ve broken my leg a few times because I was too ambitious!” She adds that because rock climbing is an individual sport, it teaches you to be true to yourself. Bonus.