Excelling in one sport is hard enough – imagine trying to juggle five at the same time. As overwhelming as that sounds, it’s exactly what Heep Yunn School’s Wong Cheuk-ning did to earn the prestigious title of Bank of China Hong Kong (BOCHK) Bauhinia Bowl Sportsgirl of the Year.
Her motivation? Keeping her school’s legacy alive.
The 18-year-old is a member of her school’s athletics, cross country, basketball, handball and netball teams. It’s common for Heep Yunn girls to take up at least two sports, as this means they can compete in a wider range of interschool competitions and earn as many points as possible for the BOCHK Bauhinia Bowl award.
Speaking to Young Post at the prize-giving ceremony on June 24, Cheuk-ning said winning the title for the first time was not only an honour, but a validation of her hard work. Now in her final year at Heep Yunn, Cheuk-ning added that the award brings her six years of interschool competitions to a perfect end.
“I never thought I would win the prize. As well as facing fierce competition from my fellow schoolmates, there were also lots of strong candidates from other schools,” said Cheuk-ning.
While she is thrilled about her individual award, for her, nothing beats winning the champion school award, which Heep Yunn managed to keep for the 34th consecutive year.
“The Bauhinia Bowl is part of Heep Yunn’s legacy, and we have a responsibility to pass it onto our juniors,” said Cheuk-ning. “They shouldn’t consider this award as a burden, but instead see it as a source of motivation to do well.”
Of the seven champion titles Cheuk-ning claimed for her school this academic year, she says her most memorable victory was winning the Girls Grade A event at the Interschool Cross Country Competition last December. After a few disappointing races earlier that year, she was able to bounce back and prove she is the “queen of endurance running” – a nickname given to her by local media due to her rapid rise in the sport.
Believe it or not, Cheuk-ning didn’t become a serious runner until late 2017. It took a lot of courage for her to switch her main school sport from basketball, which she had been playing since primary school, to long-distance running – largely because after her first time racing for the junior national team ended badly, she became convinced she didn’t have what it takes.
“I was so devastated, because I had to withdraw from the race as I sprained my ankle halfway. I realised I was really underprepared for the race, so I rushed to find a running coach right after the competition ended,” she said.
That December, Cheuk-ning began her mentorship under elite runner Chan Ka-wai, who has trained many of Hong Kong’s interschool running stars. She says she owes a lot to Chan, who not helps her as an athlete, but offers her emotional support when things aren’t looking up. “It was very frustrating when I suffered multiple injuries last year, but my coach didn’t give up on me. He always encourages me to move forward no matter what,” she said.
“I feel like I have been particularly stressed this year because of the HKDSEs, so he spent a lot of time comforting me.”
Even during her exams, Cheuk-ning trained for three hours a day. Rather than adding to her workload, she says those hours of training helped to refresh her mind so she could study more effectively.
“Running is very liberating; I can let my mind run wild,” she said. “Yes, it is exhausting, but you’ll never see progress in sports until you’re completely wiped out.”
With just days to go until HKDSE results day, Cheuk-ning has found a great way to take her mind off her nerves. She’ll be taking part in the 2019 ASICS Marathon in Australia’s Gold Coast tomorrow. If all goes well, she will have a chance at smashing the local junior half marathon record.
“My personal best time is 20 to 30 seconds away from the junior record; I hope I can break that record.”
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge