Inspired by squash star Leo Au Chun-ming’s gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta last month, Chan Sin-yuk aims to do the same for Hong Kong in the near future. The 16-year-old was a recipient of the Sports for Hope Outstanding Junior Athlete Awards 2018 last week. It is the fourth time she’s received the award, more than any of this year’s recipients.
“These awards are validation of my efforts, and I will continue to train hard and attain better results,” said Sin-yuk, who won the silver medal in the girls’ under-17 category of the Penang Junior Squash Open 2018 in Malaysia last month. “To be the runner-up of such a prestigious competition … was not what I expected,” said the Heep Yunn School student. “But, to be honest, I was not playing as well as I usually do because I was a bit nervous. I know that if I had played my best, I would have had a chance to get first place.”
She said she plans to win gold at the 25th Asian Junior Squash Individual Championships to be held in India later this month.
How is she so sure of herself?
Sin-yuk said her confidence stems from an unmatched love for the sport.
“My love for squash is the most important thing, and why I am successful,” she explained. “It makes me want to work hard and train. If you love squash like I do, you will be willing to do absolutely everything to be the best.”
Sin-yuk has been in love with the sport since she first started playing when she was six years old. “My brother started playing first. I went to play with him and thought it was fun, so I just kept playing,” she said.
Unfortunately, her brother doesn’t play any more, so they won’t be able to become the next “squash siblings” like Hong Kong’s Leo and Annie Au Wing-chi.
When asked why she loves the sport so much, Sin-yuk said it’s the mental – not the physical – aspect of the game that most appeals to her.
“It’s just amazing,” Sin-yuk said. “Your opponent affects you more in squash than in any other sport. It’s not enough to just do your best, you have to think about what your opponent might be thinking and try to trick them, too. You have to be thinking all the time.”
Now Sin-yuk is ready to become Hong Kong’s best. “I know I still have a bit of time before I become the best because I’m not quite as good as full-time players,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to becoming a full-time professional at the Hong Kong Sports Institute once she finishes her HKDSE.
She says balancing her studies with an intense training schedule is very difficult. “I train nearly every day after school and at the weekend. Sometimes it’s court-training – which is practising and playing squash – sometimes footwork drills, sometimes running,” said Sin-yuk. “You have to use all of your time – you can’t waste it. I stay at school until 4pm, then go to training. By the time I get home, it’s already 9pm and I have to study.”
If she’s this good and this committed at 16, we won’t be surprised if she fulfils her own prophecy and takes gold.
If you could describe yourself as an animal playing squash, what would it be?
A tiger, because tigers are fearless and aggressive.
Do you have any pre-match superstitions?
If I’m really nervous, I’ll just be warming up non-stop trying to get myself ready. I may also sit down to analyse my opponent and find out her weaknesses.
What kind of music do you listen to before a match?
I never listen to music before a match!