Hong Kong students know what it's like to juggle academics, family, a social life and just being a teenager. Thomas Swift does all of this and still manages to find the time to pursue his dream of being a motorsport star.
Thomas, who studies at Sha Tin College, is currently the youngest racer in his team at 16 years old, and is the "kid" in most of his races.
Aged 14, he was named second overall in class at the 2013 Karting Championship held in southern China. And at this year's Pan Delta Race Festival, he came in third in both of his races.
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Racing is in Thomas' blood. He grew up in a family where everyone was into motorsports. With the support of his father, who also raced for many years, he began his racing career when he was just 13 years old.
But being a racer is no picnic. As with other sports, karting is both physically and mentally challenging. "Racing a car at high speed is physically demanding, even though it looks easy," Thomas says.
"Being fit helps you maintain your mental focus throughout the race and still have fast lap times as the race draws to a close."
A hundredth of a second can affect Thomas' results in a competition, and being a few kilos lighter can help the power-to-weight ratio, making him faster, so it's important for him to stay in shape. "I stick to a physical regime that will improve both my endurance and physical strength, and avoid eating snacks and junk food," he says.
But before he can get behind the wheel, Thomas has to put in hours of practice in front of a computer simulator. Only after he masters the simulation can he drive on the actual track.
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Of course, leading a dual life as a student and a racer has taken a slight toll on his academics. He's currently in his first year of the IB Diploma, which means this year's results will be used to apply for universities. In these two crucial years in school, Thomas has to work extra hard to make sure he doesn't fall behind.
"I complete the assignments on the day they are given, especially when a race is near," he says. "I want all my school work finished before I head to a race so I am not distracted. I must give the race 100 per cent of my concentration."
And while he has had great success in his career, Thomas has had his ups and downs, too, just like any other competitive athlete. There have been many times where he had to pick himself up and carry on after losing a race. "It's important to look forward and learn from what has happened and not dwell on the issues," he says.
In the end, Thomas' love for racing is what pushes him. "This time last year I could never have imagined I would be able, or good enough, to race at this high level in formula racing," he says. "It's a childhood dream come true."
Thomas will next compete in Rounds 3 and 4 of the FRD Asia Formula Renault Series in Malaysia on April 25 and 26. Follow his progress at www.thomasswift.net