Beating the odds - and competitors
Raymond Chiu Hok-yin was born with epilepsy, an illness that can suddenly cause sufferers to shake uncontrollably. Because of the brain disorder, the boy's mental development was slightly impaired. And this affected his self-esteem.
Raymond says he used to be shy and sickly. 'I had to visit hospitals and clinics regularly,' he recalls. 'My illness hampered my immune system and I always caught the flu.'
To improve his health, he began swimming and playing table tennis. Soon the severity of his symptoms started to lessen.
'A few years ago, epilepsy finally left me,' the 19-year-old says. 'I still see the doctor regularly just to make sure I am all right.'
And he's well, all right. Soon after taking up table tennis, Raymond won a bronze medal in men's singles at the Interport Table Tennis Championship for mentally disabled youngsters in Macau in 2005.
Then in 2010, he represented Hong Kong at the fifth National Special Olympics in the city of Fuzhou in Fujian.
'That was my first trip by aeroplane and I was very nervous,' Raymond recalls.
Yet that did not deter him.
'I started to do better and better at the competition,' he says.
'First I won a bronze medal in mixed doubles, grabbed a silver in men's singles, and finished up with a gold in men's doubles.'
The sport, he says, has helped boost not only his health but also his confidence.
'I am no longer afraid of travelling by plane anymore either,' he adds with a smile.
Last month, Raymond flew to Beijing for a six-day cultural exchange trip with his schoolmates and teachers from Mary Rose School.
'We visited tourist attractions like the Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square,' he says.
'I enjoyed the trip because I went there without any pressure' - unlike at competitions.
Raymond's school has recognised his achievements in sport and nominated him for the AS Watson Group Hong Kong Student Sports Awards this year.
At the prize presentation ceremony on March 18, Raymond's father, Chiu Po-keung, thanked his son's teachers and social workers at the school.
'I have been worried about Raymond's development since his birth,' Chiu says. 'But now I feel relieved. Raymond's teachers and social workers have been encouraging him to grab every opportunity. Without them, Raymond could not have beaten his illness and become such an excellent sportsman.'
The teen will graduate from his school in June.
'I may further my studies or find a job. But no matter what, I will keep doing sports and continue to hone my skills in table tennis,' he stresses. 'Sport has become an essential part of my life.'