Winning a regional or an international tournament is a notable achievement, but an impressive sporting CV is not enough to secure the SCMP Student of the Year (SOTY) Sportsperson award.
It all comes down to the athlete’s genuine devotion to their chosen sport, which “cannot be written down on paper”, but “will shine through when the athlete talks about it”, according to this year’s judges.
Same as last year, we have Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, Vice-President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, Amanda Bond, Executive Manager of Equestrian Affairs at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and Noel Prentice, Sports Editor of SCMP as the adjudicators of the Sportsperson award. They see the prize as a recognition and an appreciation of the talent and commitment of young athletes, and an incentive to drive these budding sports stars to make greater breakthroughs.
“Young people are our future and it is our responsibility to nurture them and allow them to shine,” said Fok.
“This award is a good way to show appreciation, from the older generation, to young people who have worked so hard to achieve what they did in their field.”
As an award that celebrates sporting excellence, attaining local, regional and international success is a given. Previous candidates have dazzled with their sporting performance, but as it gets more competitive every year, finalists cannot pin their hopes solely on their profile. Instead, the judges are looking for athletes who are truly dedicated to their sport, and are willing to give back to the sports community.
“You need to love your sport. It’s almost like you have it in your blood, in your DNA. Enthusiasm shines through when the athlete talks about the sport, you can see it in their eyes,” said Prentice.
“Being an ambassador for your chosen sport is part of the responsibility of being an athlete,” added Bond.
“I will be looking for the applicants’ commitment to promoting sport and encouraging their peers to participate.”
When asked how he decides between two candidates of equivalent capabilities and similar achievements, Fok, who has been a Soty judge for five years, admitted it is always a tough call. But based on his judging experience, when a contestant demonstrates what they are striving for, it is always more compelling than plainly showing what results they’ve got.
“At the interview, what makes the difference is their passion, which cannot be written down on paper,” Fok said.
“I do not want to award a candidate who is doing sport as a springboard to achieve other goals.”
To properly catch the judges’ attention at the interview, Fok’s advice for budding candidates is to be well-prepared with some key points to share with the panel, and to speak precisely and concisely, because they will only be given a short amount of time to make an impression.
Meanwhile, Prentice advises contestants to be candid about their journey in sports and stay true to their personality.
As he puts it, “with honesty comes humility, that’s how we see other qualities in the contestants”.
The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.