Building confidence through sport
Form Five student Yeung Hiu-lam is not focused just on getting into university to study psychology. The wheelchair-bound 18-year-old is an elite boccia player and has her sights set on the 2012 London Paralympics.
Yeung is ranked sixth in the world and is a key member of the Hong Kong team that will vie for honours at the international games next year.
Boccia is similar to bowls but competitors play seated. Yeung took up the sport five years ago after learning about it during a physical education class at her school, Hong Kong Red Cross Princess Alexandra School.
She soon learned much more than the rules of the game.
'I am more confident since playing this game. All eyes are on me when I am playing and competing. There is no one to turn to. No matter what happens, I have to face it and overcome it myself,' Yeung said.
'For example, the Brazilian team is very noisy - they shout whether they win or lose. When I first faced them, I was so stressed out that I couldn't breathe at all. Gradually I realised that this was only a strategy and that I shouldn't be scared.
'Playing this game helps my confidence whether I am competing internationally or sitting exams in Hong Kong, or encountering problems in my day-to-day life.'
Hong Kong Red Cross Princess Alexandra School is an educational and therapeutic centre for 240 students with physical and multiple disabilities. It also runs a hall of residence for students who have been abused, live in a remote area, or are severely disabled. It plans to buy two sets of boccia balls and install ramps for its students with donations from Operation Santa Claus (OSC).
OSC is an annual fund-raising campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. It has supported more than 100 charities since it began in 1988 and Hong Kong Red Cross Princess Alexandra School is one of the 16 Hong Kong-based beneficiaries identified for this year.
School principal Elaine Wu Siu-ling said the school wanted to promote the game among students because boccia put the physically able and disabled on equal terms, helping the disabled to build confidence. 'It is a game that promotes inclusiveness. Even though I am physically able, it doesn't mean I have an advantage when playing this game,' Wu said.
Physical education teacher Chau Chun-yan said new boccia equipment at the school would help the students lift their game even more.
'We have boccia balls and ramps but they are quite old and worn out,' Chau said. 'All the students will benefit from the new equipment but I'm also sure our athletes' performances will improve significantly by using it.'
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