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Operation Santa Claus

Barbies, Minions, Christmas Trees and superheroes battle on the squash courts in Hong Kong’s colourful Wing Ding Tournament for Operation Santa Claus

Squash players in Hong Kong compete in 11 non-stop matches in seven hour charity event

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 December, 2017, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 December, 2017, 10:57pm

Stay back and stick to the walls or you may be knocked over by players dashing from one squash court to another as the sound of the horn blasts every three minutes to signal a new game.

Players battle it out in 11 non-stop matches, each competing for three minutes against an opponent before sprinting to the next court for another game, with no breaks.

Welcome to the seven-hour Wing Ding Tournament, which was held yesterday at the Hong Kong Football Club.

This is the 19th annual tournament and the higher the team’s score, the more money they raise for Operation Santa Claus, the charity drive organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Wing Ding has been a major donor to Operation Santa Claus for several years and last year the squash tournament raised more than HK$270,000 (US$35,000).

David Murray, the tournament’s chief organiser, said although there were fewer teams playing this year, he was confident the tournament could hit more than the funds raised last year.

There were 12 groups of 10 players, all dressed up in their colour-themed costumes varying from men in pink Barbie outfits, Minions, light-up Christmas trees and superheroes such as Spiderman and Iron Man.

Murray said the event had been running very smoothly and people had been very generous in donating as well as having fun playing in their costumes.

“We need to make it fun, we’re going to get the money to come with the fun so people will enjoy doing it,” he said.

“In order for participants to identify each other, the teams are given a colour and then some dress up. This trend has just developed over the years. We didn’t really push in the first few years, but people liked it because it is fun and it became a tradition.”

Stephen Gallop, Wing Ding Tournament charity committee chair, who was among the players and dressed in a flashy silver Studio 54 party-goer suit said he is happy because it was the first time that players managed to get on the courts on time and the tournament has been a success every year.

“There are very few charity events connected to squash anywhere, so this is kind of unique,” he said. “I also think it’s a great opportunity for the squash community in the whole of Hong Kong to get involved in something and give something back. Being able to raise funds for Operation Santa Claus is perfect because we get that widespread outreach afterwards,” he added.

One of Gallop’s teammates, Nikolaj Schultz, is no stranger to the tournament and has been playing for more than a decade.

“I’ve been here 12 years and I have played every year. I feel all of us are so well privileged and we all have a very good life in Hong Kong, but at the same time we recognise not everyone in the city is as privileged as us,” he said.

“So we can have a little bit of fun and collect money for people who may need a little bit of help out there, we are very happy to do that.”

Joining the competition for the second time was Harry Thind who had just finished sweating it out in his pink Barbie outfit. He vowed to do it again next year.

“We wanted to raise money for charity and everybody has a good time. There’s also a lot of great level of squash here.”

Among the participants was a young Spiderwoman, 13-year old Paige Teresa Hill, who had to snip off the bottom of her costume so she could run faster.

“I actually would rather play against adults than children because I’ve nothing to lose. I’m really happy that I could be part of it because I will do anything for charity,” she said, adding she would definitely play again next year because there was so much fun.

The Wing Ding Tournament was first staged in 1998 to commemorate late employee Yuen Kam-wing, who died young after being born severely disabled.