Aiming for bull's eye
Junior archers Ben Tseng Tik-bun and Charlie Tsui Chung-yan refuse to surrender - either on or off the field. The two top archers play an important role in the youth development of archery in Hong Kong.
Yet they could not be more different. Ben, 17, is always upbeat with a happy smile on his face. He jokes around with a reporter he has just met. He seems to be an easy-going fellow who likes to make light of things.
Charlie, 16, seems more cautious and withdrawn. She is humble and prefers to downplay her achievements. She is young and still competes in Grade B events based on her age group at school.
Ben was a core member of La Salle College's archery team and a well-known athlete locally in the sport. Yet he began pursuing the sport almost by accident.
'I started to do archery because of a summer archery class held at school,' he says. 'I did quite well and went on to become a top archer in just a few years. My school has many top athletes in different sports and it is nice to be one of them.'
He even runs an archery club for students as an extra-curricular activity. 'It's a challenge to juggle all my different responsibilities, but I do my best,' he says.
After the summer vacation, Ben will move to study in Britain. He is certain, though, that his schoolmates will carry on with the archery club in his absence.
Ben has competed in myriad tournaments. 'I tried very hard to qualify for the Singapore Youth Olympic Games [YOG] and came very close,' he says. 'When I saw YOG videos on YouTube, I discovered that more than half of the archers there are my friends. I felt like I had been left out of a great party.'
Charlie is a Form Four student at Diocesan Girls' School. She has also founded an archery club at her school.
'Many girls who first joined dropped out later for one reason or another,' she says. 'Just as Ben said, it places a lot of pressure on students to try to find time both for their studies and sport. Often they just quit doing sports.'
A lack of facilities has also been a problem. 'We didn't have a site for archery at our old campus on Jordan Road. We needed to book other facilities for training,' she explains. 'It was troublesome for us to do the bookings and it took us time to travel from the school to the sports centre for practice. And for the same reason, we were rarely able to hold school archery activities.'
Luckily, Charlie enjoys the support of her school, which will let archers practice at its new multi-sport venue under construction. 'I am grateful for my school's help,' she says. 'I hope I will be able to recruit more regular members next term.'
The Hong Kong Archery Association has selected Ben and Charlie, as well as two other young archers, to attend the China Intercity Games in October.
Ben will be studying in Britain in the autumn, but he will not turn his back on the sport. 'I will continue to compete in archery even though I won't be studying in Hong Kong. I am planning to enlist my Hong Kong friends at the same [British] school in archery activities there.'
On the downside, neither of the two young athletes may make it to the Olympic Games in the end. In order to qualify for the Olympics, they would need to compete in a series of international events at their own expense as archers are not supported by the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
'It is not possible to have a good world ranking if we skip too many competitions. But it is also impossible for our families to pay for all the trips,' Charlie says.
But that does not mean Ben and Charlie are giving up on their dreams. 'I still want to qualify for the Asian Games, even though I know it's a very high target,' Charlie says. 'But I have to make sure that I'll achieve it in about 10 years' time before I am too old.'
Ben agrees: 'It is a very distant goal, yes, but 'never say never'!'