If there’s one thing to say about Student of the Year Sportsperson finalist Stephanie Chu Ying-yau, it’s that she always knows where she needs to go.
The 15-year-old Sacred Heart Canossian College student has become Hong Kong’s top young prospect in orienteering, a sport that requires competitors to race to the finish line – without knowing where it is.
“You don’t have anything other than a compass and a map,” explained Stephanie, adding that, unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to use your phone or Google Maps during a race. “I have to navigate and think about how to plan my route. I can get to the finish line, but at the same time I have to run [fast] so that I will not fall behind the other competitors.”
Her father, who used to be a boy scout, introduced her to orienteering when she was five years old. She quickly found that she had both talent and a deep love for the sport.
“I hope I can inspire more young people to try orienteering, as it is very different from ‘regular’ sports, such as swimming or athletics,” Stephanie said. “Every race, I run in different places, not just the same sports ground or swimming pool. I also have to plan my own route, instead of following the road or the path that the course setter has already set. I’m responsible for my own destiny.”
In being the master of her own destiny, Stephanie has become one of the top orienteering athletes not just in Hong Kong, but all of Asia – she won the Asian Junior and Youth Orienteering Championships last year. She hopes to one day represent Hong Kong on the sport’s biggest stage.
“Orienteering is not an Olympic sport so I cannot go to the Olympics, but I hope to go to the world orienteering championships in the next few years,” Stephanie said. “I hope to achieve the best results out of anyone [from Hong Kong] who has been there before.”
Asked whether physical or mental prowess is more important in orienteering, Stephanie said it’s “half [and] half”.
“It’s such a special sport because you need to be physically very fit, but at the same time, you have to use your brain,” she said. “You have to stay extremely focused at all times.”
Lastly, Stephanie wants to dispel the myth that orienteering is a dangerous sport.
“I think one reason orienteering is a [lesser-known] sport in Hong Kong is because parents may think it’s dangerous for their kids to play and run outside,” she said. “But it’s really a very safe sport and you are safe during competitions. I also think it’s great for kids to explore new places, and learn how to navigate hills and woods with nothing but a map.
“It’s because of orienteering I got to experience everything Hong Kong nature has to offer.”