Playing to win
Student Daniel Siu Cheong-hung, the shining star of youth volleyball in Hong Kong, has just ended a winning school year - both on and off the court.
The talents of the Form Six graduate of Wa Ying College, in Ho Man Tin, have been recognised for years. He has played for Hong Kong's youth team in more than 10overseas and mainland events since he was in Form One.
The wing spiker captained his school team to an elusive first Jing Ying Tournament title in December, after many years of disappointment.
Then last month he secured the biggest prize of his life so far - a place at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 'About one week before the announcement of HKDSE results, I received a conditional offer from CUHK's Department of Sports Science and Physical Education,' he says.
'It was good news, but I felt rather nervous, though. The requirement was to meet a standard of Level Three in Chinese, English and one elective subject, and also Level Two in mathematics and liberal studies. I was afraid I couldn't make it.'
However, Daniel, 19, secured another 'victory' by gaining Level Three in both language subjects, and Level Four for mathematics, liberal studies, economics and Chinese history.
'I'm thankful all my hard work has paid off, and can become an undergraduate at CUHK next month,' he says. 'But I also think luck plays a large part in people's lives - I think it did in my exams and in my university interview.
'It will be an exciting new part of my life. CUHK's volleyball team is not a strong one, but I hope I can contribute to the team.'
His fine performances in volleyball over the past two years led him to being appointed captain of his school team. But past disappointments made them lower their expectations in what was Daniel's final appearance in the Jing Ying competition. He says: 'We set ourselves a lower, more realistic target - to reach the Jing Ying semi-finals. In a team sport, you need everyone to share the same goal if you're to succeed. My teammates went way beyond their normal limits and, as a result, we did extremely well in the tournament.'
Wa Ying defeated Cheung Sha Wan Catholic Secondary School in a thrilling five-set final to claim their first-ever title.
The teenager - well-known for his powerful serves and spikes - won the game's Most Valuable Player Award, plus three other individual awards in the tournament.
In the past school year, he also won the gold medal in the Inter-school Beach Volleyball Competition. Then in late June, Daniel was named as Bauhinia Bowl Sports Boy of the Year, in Hong Kong's co-ed school category, for the second consecutive year.
Despite his successes, he remains modest and polite - yet focused. Part of the reason is because he knows how it feels to be on the losing side; he has never forgotten the frustration of missing out on playing at the 2010 Asian Games, through injury, so he's determined to focus on the future.
'The first time I was selected for the Games-bound team, I joined the training squad, but suffered a knee injury. It ruled me out of the event.'
Yet time flies and he has set his sights on the next Asian Games. 'I hope I can play in Icheon [South Korea] two years from now,' he says. 'I also hope to play well in the local university tournament, and get chosen for the Hong Kong team at the Universiade, in Kazan, Russia, next year.'