Gymnast Elizabeth Chan is living proof that Hongkongers no longer have to sacrifice their education to become an elite athlete, or the other way around. As the first-ever graduate of the ESF-HKSI IB Diploma programme, the 19-year-old officially got her IB Diploma whilst maintaining a professional gymnastics career and representing Hong Kong.
Elizabeth transferred to Renaissance College Hong Kong (RCHK) from G. T. (Ellen Yeung) College after learning about the ESF-HKSI partnership, which allows athletes to extend their IB Diploma study time from two years to three or four years.
“At my old school I had to be in class from 8am to 4pm, then I would be training from 5pm to 9pm, so it was super busy and extremely exhausting for me,” said Elizabeth, who lives in the HKSI dorms in Sha Tin, close to RCHK. “After I switched over, it became much easier to manage my time, and I was able to improve my training.”
She received her diploma after three years of study by taking some classes online and by receiving additional tutoring in the school. In addition, since joining RCHK, she has become one of Hong Kong’s top female gymnasts, as she will be representing the city in the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, next month.
Elizabeth first started her sport when she was five years old. “I realised early on that I was good at gymnastics,” she said.
“I fell in love with the sport because it’s so challenging, and you have to master every part of your body. When I was 10, I made it into the Hong Kong junior selection team and then I realised I wanted to make this my career.”
Elizabeth will be studying physical education and recreation management at Baptist University next year – a five-year course that will be spread over eight years. Before that, she hopes to win a gold medal at the Asian Games. And in the long-term, she hopes to land a spot in the 2020 Olympics.
“I know it will be really hard to get into the Olympics and that only one girl from Hong Kong has ever been to the Olympics before,” said Elizabeth, referring to legendary Hong Kong gymnast Angel Wong.
“I hope to become the second. That’s my ultimate dream.”
In addition to being one of Hong Kong’s most successful student athletes, Elizabeth is in the unique position of being able to compare and contrast local and international education styles. “They’re completely different,” she said. “The IB programme is more about thinking outside the box, while the DSE is more about memorising books and reading.
“I think the IB programme is better. You can actually learn more stuff that you can apply to your real life.”
Given her success in this less than common sport, it’s clear that being encouraged to think outside the box is helping Elizabeth reach her goals.
Favourite music to listen to before a match?
Anything by Imagine Dragons – I really like their songs because I find them relaxing and I love their rhythm
Favourite foods to eat before a competition
Sadly, I can’t eat my favourite snacks before competition because I have to keep my body in the best shape possible.
What animal would you describe yourself as when doing gymnastics?
Probably a tiger because my best apparatus is vault, which requires me to run really fast and be really aggressive.