They’re known for being Hong Kong’s squash siblings for good reason – Leo and Annie Au are the city’s top players for their respective genders in the sport. The dynamic duo were on hand at Kau Yan School last week to talk to students about their experiences and their love of the game.
“We want to encourage the students to try all sorts of sports, not just squash,” Leo, 28, said, when asked about why they’re there. “When my sister and I started playing, we had no idea what squash was. We just thought it was fun and we started playing it. But look at us now.”
“Our parents don’t play any sports at all, and neither do our older siblings. It’s just me and Leo,” Annie, 29, added. “Being the best at squash is not about natural talent – it’s because we love the sport that we started working really hard. That’s why we were able to become the best.”
Leo and Annie started playing squash together when they were in Primary Five and Primary Six, respectively. Now, Leo is ranked 22nd in the world, and Annie is 11th.
“Some people might have a talent for a sport, like my sister and I, but they wouldn’t know about it because they don’t try the sport,” said Leo. “That’s why we want more young people to try out sports. We want to show them that it’s possible to become a full-time athlete, because the government and the Hong Kong Sports Institute are providing a lot more support now than they have in the past.”
Though they are in favour of more sports participation in general, Annie in particular hopes more students will try squash as it’s “suitable for anyone”.
“Squash is different to other sports,” she said.
“In basketball and athletics, being tall is an advantage, right? In table tennis, being short is better. In squash, your height doesn’t matter. It’s about how skilled and mentally strong you are.”
She added that squash is more intense than other racket sports, such as tennis or badminton.
“In those sports, you stand across from your opponent. In squash, you and your opponent share the same court. In many ways, it makes the game even more competitive.”
The game has, however, never been all that competitive between the siblings – though Annie said she still remembers the days when she used to beat her brother.
“We still find it funny how, when we first started playing, we were around the same level, skill-wise. Then, as we got older, he got bigger and stronger and started training with the men, and I started training with the women. It was never really competitive between us.
“However,” she added, “I do think we help to push each other. For instance, when I see how hard he’s training, it’ll make me feel lazy, so I’ll push myself to train even harder. But we always support each other, no matter what.”
The siblings are looking forward to this summer’s Asian Games in Indonesia, where both have set their sights on bringing back gold medals to Hong Kong.
“We believe we can do it,” Annie said. “We’ve been training non-stop and if we win, we hope it will encourage more people to try this amazing sport.” As for their advice for existing squash players?
“Don’t give up,” Leo said. “That’s the most important thing. Have one goal, like trying to be the best, and don’t stop working until you achieve it.”
“Trust yourself – that’s the most important thing,” added Annie. “Don’t listen to your doubters. You can do it as long as you work hard enough. My brother and I are proof of that.”