Among discus records and rugby World Cups, Hong Kong enforcer Lee Ka-shun is loving her work with special-needs children
The 28-year-old’s athletics success is continuing to pay dividends as she sets herself for a big few weeks in Ireland
She owns the Hong Kong women’s discus record and is about to pack down in the front row at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, but there is plenty more to Lee Ka-shun than brute strength.
Despite boasting a resume that would make any up and coming sportsperson envious, it is when talking about her job as a social worker that 28-year-old Lee really lights up.
She juggles a full-time job at Treats – an NGO dedicated to giving all children the chance to live in an accepting and integrated society – with her rugby, working with special-needs children.
“I love to help them to help themselves,” Lee says. “They are very pure, they are not confined by boundaries like a normal person.
“A normal person needs to focus on many things like their work, their education, on their health and other things.
“For the special-needs children, their thoughts are very simple and they are just thinking about being a happy person and that’s why I love to work with them.”
This doesn’t see rugby take a back seat, however, and she is often able to combine the two in the workplace when organising outdoor activities.
“We always say rugby is a sport for all and every child has the right to participate in any sport,” she says.
“I think this is especially true for rugby, because rugby gives the idea that it is very violent, but it is not. There are many rules we can modify, like tag rugby, so it becomes a game for everyone.”
Lee is already nine years into her rugby career despite a late start after focusing on discus in her younger years, and has been in the Hong Kong set-up for the best part of six years.
While she is proud of her athletics’ achievements and continues to have an interest in discus throwing, it is rugby that has given her a true sense of belonging.
“What I love most about rugby is the team environment because in discus throwing, it is an individual game,” Lee says.
“In rugby there is a big difference because it is like a family, my teammates are like a family to me.”
Lee broke her own Hong Kong discus record a number of times after initially achieving the milestone, setting with 42.23-metre mark that stands today in 2012.
While rugby is obviously number one at the moment, she hasn’t ruled out having another crack at her record down the track.
“I want the younger generation to challenge this record but at that same time, I am happy the record still stands and when I finish the World Cup maybe I will challenge myself again to push this record further,” she says.
“After playing rugby I should be fitter and I think I still have the ability to push the record.”
On top of all the success she had in the sport, discus also ensured Lee was well equipped to try her hand at rugby when the opportunity presented itself.
“I got to tertiary level and my friends invited me to play rugby because I was big and strong,” she says. “For Chinese people, there are less people with this size of body.”
Her unique skill set and a thirst for a new challenge – coupled with her addiction to her new sport because of the teamwork – saw her debut for Hong Kong in 2010: “The elements in discuss throw are quite similar to rugby, you have to be explosive and strong.”
And of the opportunity to ply her trade on the world stage when her side kicks off their World Cup campaign against Canada on Wednesday?
“I am very excited because I have played in the Hong Kong team for many years already and it is like a dream. It shows that Hong Kong women’s rugby can achieve its dream.”