Stories are the way to stand out, says one the judges of the Student of the Year (SOTY) – Sportsperson award.
“Sports results are black and white. What I want in the interviews is to hear stories from these young athletes. They need to express themselves in that eight or 10 minutes to convince me they have a passion and love for sports,” said former squash star Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin, winner of The SOTY – Sportsperson award in 1996-97, who is joining the judging panel this year for the first time.
“The sportsperson award was a big moment for me,” said Chiu, “I was a bit shocked when the SOTY awards invited to be a judge. Twenty years is a long time. But I also feel special. I am a past winner and I am eager to see what the outstanding the student athletes are like after two decades.”
Chiu became a full-time athlete after completing her undergraduate studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She became a well-known sports icon in Hong Kong and enjoyed much success on court, including a gold medal match victory over Nicol David of Malaysia at the Busan Asian Games in 2002.
Chiu, who is now a Hong Kong squash team coach at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, still remembers how she felt.
“I was nervous. There were other awards for athletes out there but they didn’t require a face-to-face interview with the judging panel, which SOTY did. It was like an admission interview to school.”
Chiu said student athletes nowadays are given more support than when she was at school, and she is looking forward to learning more about these young stars at the interviews.
“When I was a student, schools had only just began offering support to student athletes. Now, some universities offer scholarships to attract the best athletes,” said Chiu, adding that this means students no longer need to choose between their studies and their sport.
For the other judges, winning The Student of the Year (SOTY) – Sportsperson award this year will be more than an individual recognition. It is also a statement that you could be as successful as previous winners, like Hong Kong’s star swimmer Siobhan Haughey.
Siobhan won the award in 2013 and just under three years later, the 19-year-old University of Michigan student debuted in the Rio Olympics.
South China Morning Post sports editor Noel Prentice has been a judge in this category since 2013, and he said Siobhan is the standout winner of these editions.
“Siobhan boasted such impressive credentials, including being a Youth Olympics medallist,” said Prentice. “Since being crowned sportsperson of the year, Siobhan has gone on to great things – and none are higher than the Olympics, where she became the first Hong Kong swimmer to reach the ‘A standard’ in the 200m individual medley and freestyle. She was also the first local swimmer in the modern era to qualify for the semi-finals at the Games.”
Prentice said he and his fellow judges are looking forward to see more talented nominees with the belief that they can be as good as or even better than Siobhan.
“Finalists of the sportsperson of the year award can take great pride in knowing they are high achievers in their fields,” said Prentice, “They are role models in their own right, with their actions, both on and off the field, court and sports arena, impacting on their friends, classmates and teammates.”
The Student of the Year Awards are organised by Young Post in conjunction with the South China Morning Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club with support from the Education Bureau.
Another judge, Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, who is also the chef de mission of the Hong Kong Delegation at the Rio Olympics, hoped the multi-sport extravaganza could inspire young athletes.
“With the Olympics in Rio this year, we saw an increased interest in sports in Hong Kong. Many sports fans supported our athletes in competition and I hope this has served as an inspiration to contestants,” said Fok.
“I expect nominees to learn from our top athletes and be confident and inspired themselves to get to the next level. They should have passion, determination, and of course, a never-give-up spirit, no matter what they are doing.”
Fok said he also had high expectations for the finalists to promote sports in the community.
“Winners are not winners if they do not give back to society,” said Fok, “The best way for our finalists to give back is to try influencing people around them. As young athletes, they have unique experiences in competitions and their daily lives. They can share these experiences with others, motivate them, influence them and hopefully, inspire more people to participate in sports.”
Fok added that Hong Kong needs to promote mass participation in sports, and that starts with students.