Getting good at a sport is tough enough. Mastering one and then re-inventing yourself after moving halfway across the world is another story, but Abigail Fernandes is doing just that.
The 17-year-old Island School student was a keen shooter while studying at a boarding school in Britain. But when she moved back to Hong Kong, life suddenly felt a little empty without the eight hours a week of shooting training she’d become used to.
“I decided to go for a more physical sport, as well as one that might help me in the future in terms of self-defence,” she explains to Young Post. With its high intensity cardio, and opportunities to build strength, boxing fit the bill perfectly.
Abigail enjoys getting fitter and healthier, but also takes a holistic view towards her sport, acknowledging that it’s beneficial to the mind, as well as the body.
“Boxing teaches you endurance, humility, respect; but best of all, a hunger to learn,” she said. “The values and lessons the sport teaches you can all be applied to both your day-to-day life and education.”
Now, she has been boxing for just a little more than three years and loves the challenges that this tough contact sport offers.
She trains for 10 hours a week with Impakt, in Central, and describes her coaches and fellow athletes as “a second family”, saying they have helped her to grow as an athlete and a person. “The entire Impakt family have been right by my side since day one. I love them all!”
Though she has yet to take on her first opponent competitively, she rates her biggest challenge as being able to deal with hits in the ring. It’s testament to the years of experience boxers need before they have the confidence to fight.
“When you get hit in the ring, it’s so easy to burst into tears and give up, but this gets you nowhere,” she reasons. “I’m still learning this lesson. It is ironic to expect to throw hard, shots and not be able to take them as well. I want to be able to take hits, accept them and, instead of freezing, counter with technique.”
These are skills that can only be learned through countless sessions of sparring – a practice match that involves punches that are lighter, but real all the same.
Sparring was a learning curve for Abigail, but she proudly embraces every opportunity she gets.
“The first time I sparred I cried, so I’m proud of myself for never turning down a sparring session,” she says. “Each time I spar, I learn how to apply more and more of my skills. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not amazing. I have so much to learn.”
Abigail is about to start her last year of IB, and admits that her routine outside training will be “pretty boring”. In the meantime, she’ll keep honing her technique as she looks for a competition where she can put her skills to the test.
“I have a long, long way to go,” she says, “but I want to learn everything this sport has to offer!”
What song/movie title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
I honestly don’t know because when I train I tune out everything other than my coach.
You can take the abilities of any animal during one match. Which do you choose and why?
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” The idea of moving fluidly and gracefully and throwing accurate and clean shots.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
Whatever my coaches told me to eat. I’d be so nervous I don’t know if I’d want to eat anything.
Which fictional character would you choose as your team mate?
Simba. Nothing related to the sport. I just love The Lion King.
10 years in the future, you’re a famous athlete. What company do you sign-on as spokesperson for, and what do you promote?
I have no idea. In terms of a cause, the 24-Hour-Race, which fights human trafficking. It is the biggest student led movement in Asia, and I’d love for it to further expand around the world.