A year's break lifts windsurfer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 12:00am


Windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man, 20, dreams of emulating Lee Lai-shan and winning an Olympic gold medal for Hong Kong at the London Games next year. Yet first she must beat competition from Vicky Chan Wai-kei, who went to the Beijing Olympics, to win the solitary place.

The University of Hong Kong's (HKU) faculty of arts gave Hayley, a first-year student, a year's sabbatical to January 2012 to train full time. 'I cannot extend my three-year degree more than two years [or] be away more than one year at a time,' she said.

Like a few other institutions, HKU has been flexible in offering Hayley a chance to fulfil her sporting dreams. Is it enough?

Hayley - a silver medallist at last year's Asian Games in Guangzhou and the first Hong Kong woman to win gold at the International Sailing Federation's Youth Sailing World Championships in Brazil in 2009 - is unsure. 'Stopping my studies enables me to prepare and go for short-term goals - the 2012 Olympic trials. But only if I win selection will the university consider giving me more time away.'

Annie Au Wing-chi, Hong Kong's top female squash player, deferred her business management studies at Polytechnic University (PolyU). She trained full-time before the Asian Games in December and won two silver medals in Guangzhou. Now she is on the path to becoming world No 10, the highest ranking a local woman has achieved.

PolyU gave Au, 22, six years to finish her degree. She will play full-time on the world circuit to improve her ranking and study part-time. 'If there is a 10-year time frame for degrees offered by universities, athletes can focus better on training and competition; they don't need to worry about finishing their studies in a tight time frame,' Au said. 'Athletes may achieve better results at international competitions, which would benefit local sporting development. It's a win-win situation for athletes and society.'