Grasping the paddle with zeal
While many teens probably dreamed of parties or the latest gadgets when they applied for the HK$6,000 government handout, 19-year-old Norris John Chin was setting his sights on something else: a brand new canoe.
Norris is a Form Seven student at Beacon College in Yuen Long and one of the city's few canoe polo players. The sport is not supported by the Hong Kong Sports Institute and so can be quite expensive.
Norris applied for his bonus last August and has already invested the money on financing part of the cost of a new boat.
'I only started to play the sport in 2009,' Norris notes. 'I bought the first boat of my own [last year]. It was made of plastic and cost me HK$4,500. It is heavy and after some time, its shape warped a bit because of temperature changes.
'But that is still way better than the boats I shared with other players [at the Hong Kong Canoe Union].'
The plastic canoe Norris bought is of the type used by Chinese Taipei's team, one of the world's best in the sport. Soon after he bought it, he was selected to join the Hong Kong team at a tournament in Taiwan last autumn.
Deciding it was worth the hefty price tag, Norris later bought a carbon-fibre paddle for HK$3,600.
He also ordered a HK$15,500 boat made of the same material. His new canoe will arrive soon.
'It is lightweight and more efficient for my quick turns in a match,' says Norris, who has to shift between attack and defence during games.
His father chipped in to cover the cost of Norris' latest purchase, but the teen also used his own money.
'I have been saving every single dollar I could over the past two years,' Norris says. 'I've given up all entertainment and seldom hang out with friends to avoid spending money.
'Originally a boat made of carbon fibre cost almost HK$20,000. So when I learned that four of my friends were ordering boats through my coach, I joined them and we got a discount.'
Though the sport can sink one's wallet, Norris says he is lucky to have the support of his father, a former player who won two gold medals when he competed on two occasions at the Asian Canoe Polo Championships in the 1980s. He used a wooden boat at the time.
But the days of Hong Kong dominance in the sport are gone, Norris says.
'I want to help revitalise the sport. I started quite late and only have two years' experience, which is far [from] my dad's level when he was my age,' he adds.
Norris - who is taking the final A-levels this year - will debut at the 55th Bank of China Canoe Polo Open next month, and looks set to paddle through. 'With the boat [and after the exams], it is a brand new start for me,' he says.