Hail the three kings
The outstanding rulers Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan from the Chinese classical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms couldn't work together. But nothing could be further from the truth for Hong Kong's junior 'volleyball kings' Siu Cheong-hung, Alex Chan Chi-wai and Wong Ho-kiu as they head for the All China Secondary School Students' Games.
We don't know which historical figures represent each player, but Young Post has discovered that each one has at least one achievement under his belt that the other two do not. Cheong-hung won the 2009/10 Bauhinia Bowl outstanding athlete award in volleyball and beach volleyball, Alex competed in the 2010 Asian Games and Ho-kiu was named most valuable player at the 2010/11 Jing Ying Tournament.
But the sum of all their achievements makes up a full trophy cabinet of major inter-school volleyball tournament titles and awards in Hong Kong.
As captains of their respective school teams, the trio can take much credit for the thrilling action of the inter-school competitions. They have faced each other's teams many times on indoor courts and on the beach. This time, however, they stand together on the same side of the net to fight for Hong Kong.
Unusually, the boys will be taking part in the student games for a second time. Normally these are held every three years, but because of the Beijing Olympics, the last games were postponed a year until 2009, so they are veterans.
The Hong Kong team just missed winning the bronze medal in 2009. 'We were leading 2-0 in a best-of-five-sets game, but our opponents, Jiangsu, came back to win 2-3,' said Cheong-hung, the wing spiker. Hong Kong led 14-13 in the final set but lost 14-16.
Though Cheong-hung is only 18, the trip to Inner Mongolia will be his 10th overseas tournament with the junior team. He joined the squad at 13 and was captain in their most recent tournaments.
The coaches have yet to decide who will be captain for the student games. But regardless of whether he is captain again or not, Cheong-hung can count on the respect of his teammates, and he is full of praise for them as well. 'The upcoming young players are very strong. Jonathan To Sik-lok is tall and talented. He is only 14 but I think he is a player with high potential who can keep our team on a par with our rivals,' says the Form Six student from Wa Ying College.
On the other hand, Ho-kiu, 18, is known as the 'counsellor' of the team. The libero of the team listens to his teammates' problems and has a 'boys' talk' with them when they encounter difficulties in any tournament. But this time, during practice ahead of the games, it was the Jing Ying Tournament MVP who needed a sympathetic ear.
'I stopped playing to study for my A-Level exams and now I think I am not as good as before,' said the Form Seven student from Cheung Sha Wan Catholic Secondary School. 'I am getting better now but I still need to work hard to return to my peak form.'
Alex, a fifth former from La Salle College, expects their second trip to the inter-school games to be much harder than the previous one.
'Strong teams like Hainan, Shanghai and Jiangsu will be our our toughest competition,' the centre says. 'I also heard that other teams, including Beijing and Liaoning, have called back their elite players from the national reserve team for the games.'