Diocesan Girls' School (DGS) hopes to capture its sixth consecutive overall championship in the HKSSF Inter-school Indoor Rowing Competition on Friday and Saturday, but it won't be easy: short-distance events have been added to the A and B Grades, which are definitely not the team's strong point.
In previous years, the races were just 1,000 and 2,000 metres in A and B grades, 500 and 1,000 metres in C Grade, and 4x500 metres relays in each grade - a total of six individual races and three relay events. This year, the 500 metre race has been added to A and B grades.
"Honestly, our team is not strong at short distances. It is more about explosiveness," says 17-year-old Tiffany Lui, one of the DGS captains. "So to prepare ourselves better for those races, we added a lot of 200-metre race training."
The indoor event is always fun to watch, and the new events will add to the excitement created by keen competition and an electric atmosphere, especially during relays.
DGS will be working hard to stay ahead of last year's first and second runners-up, Good Hope School and TWGHs Lui Yun Choy Memorial College, as well as a promising newcomer.
"We heard that Heep Yunn School will enter, and we anticipate that they will be tough challengers," says Claudia Sin, 16, a captain in Form Five. "So we dare not slack off."
Because the indoor rowing competition is one of the last inter-school events of the year, competitors are rarely rowing specialists; almost all of the teams are formed by athletes from other sports.
"There is just one girl in our team who does outdoor rowing; we discovered that not long ago," says Hazel Liu, a Form Five student and another DGS captain. "A lot of our members are from athletics and swimming teams."
Form Five student Lau Sze-wing adds: "I think athletics students have a certain explosiveness, so they take care of the short- distance events, while swimmers are better at endurance, which is needed for long distances." Sze-wing is one of those swimmers.
But this lack of specialisation doesn't mean less support. Form Six former captain Angel Cheung, who returned to the DGS team after finishing her DSE exams, says: "Since there is just one relay for each grade, the four rowers take turns rowing on the same machine, so everyone gathers around that particular machine, cheering for you. You can imagine how it feels."
And perhaps because the event is so late in the year, participants develop a special bond.
"We all know when it's time to gather for indoor rowing training," Form Four team member Samantha Lau says. "The seniors try to make it to every practice session, and try to give the younger girls a sense of belonging, which we hope carries through."
On the boys' side, Diocesan Boys' School, which won the overall championship for the first time last year, beating La Salle College and Yu Chun Keung Memorial College, will try to repeat the sweep for the Diocesan schools.
"To cope with the newly added short-distance events, we looked for students who play ball games or throwing events. They usually have stronger upper bodies, which suits short distance," says Fenix Chu Buk-lok, the team's teacher in charge.
"Last year's achievement was a great motivation, but we won't say we are totally capable of successfully defending the overall championship. We hope that if everyone puts in a good performance, it can lead us to success again.
"We invited a professional athlete to coach us last year, but this time, we turned to the internet to do research. Every year, we look for something new and aim to improve."
The Inter-school Indoor Rowing Competition starts at 8am on Friday and Saturday at the Harbour Road Sports Centre, Wan Chai