More than 5,000 people visited the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s (HKSI) fourth annual Open Day over the weekend, where they got to try different sports and meet some of the city’s top athletes.
Athletes at the event included Lai Chun-ho (athletics), Tse Ying-suet (badminton), Robbie Capito (billiards), and Ng Lok-wang (fencing) – all of them elite sportspeople who, said HKSI chief executive Trisha Leahy, “are persistent in doing what they like”.
Leahy also reminded the parents who attended that high academic achievement is not the only route to success, and that young people should be encouraged to pursue sports if they are talented. Besides, she said; “People who do sports are often the happiest people, and families who do sports together often have the most fun as well.”
Her comments echo the findings of a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry: physically active people have much lower risks of developing depression and anxiety than people who rarely play any sports.
The first day of the event was exclusively for students from 14 schools. The Sunday, though, was open to the public. People could try 10 sports, giving them the chance to see what it takes to be an athlete. The sports on offer were dragon boat, cycling, golf, rowing, rugby sevens, tenpin bowling, squash, table tennis, tennis, and triathlon.
Visitors were also able to listen to the athletes talk about their experiences and take guided tours around the training facilities.
Tennis player Sheena Jade Masuda Karrasch said she started training at HKSI two years ago, when she was 13. Now Sheena, who won the girls’ doubles at the Hong Kong International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Tournament (Grade 4) last week, is a full-time athlete and has a strict daily routine. She trains from 9am to 11am, then takes her lunch break, and studies for a while. At 2pm, she hits the gym. At 4pm, she goes back to training until about 7pm. The only day she has off to relax is Sunday.
When asked about what keeps her motivated, she told Young Post: “I think I’ve always wanted to become a tennis player. If I don’t work hard, it’s not going to happen. My dream of competing at world-class level is definitely keeping me going.”
She believed the open day was a good way to raise public awareness of sport and the effort required to compete. “Not a lot of people know that we train really hard. Doing sports isn’t easy,” said Sheena. “Plus, it’s just fun for the public to experience the environment [that we do].”
She said it’s not surprising that some Hongkongers think academic performance is more important than sports. “Some of my former teammates quit tennis to study because they want to go to HKU. The DSE is so hard. It’s just really sad.”
Sheena’s main priority, though, is to turn professional. She said she’d like to go to university some day, but perhaps only if she suffers a long-term injury or when she couldn’t play any more. Not that it’s likely to happen any time soon – next week, she is heading off to New Zealand to compete at the Wilson Tennis Canterbury ITF and NZ ITF Summer Championships.
“I’m going there to win, but if I don’t, it’s all right. It just means I’ll have to work harder,” Sheena said.