Gymnastics is the sport that best illustrates the philosophy of 'no pain, no gain'. While no one will argue that performing a floor exercise involving various tumbling manoeuvres isn't a challenging feat, few of us can truly comprehend what gymnasts have to endure to be good enough to win honours and medals. Frankie Poon King-hung, the head coach of Hong Kong's artistic gymnastics squad team, is one of the few people who knows all about the sweat and tears endured by gymnasts. Having coached the sport for about 20 years, Poon says that it is a never-say-die spirit that drives gymnasts to continue honing their skills despite all the hardships. 'If you have no fighting spirit, you cannot be a gymnast. Unlike football, gymnasts are competing with themselves rather than with their opponents.' This means being willing to constantly raise your own standards. It can take gymnasts three years to master the basic skills of the sport, and then they may still have to practise a single movement year after year in order to get it as close to perfect as possible. 'There is no perfection in gymnastics. What is the ultimate beauty [in a gymnastic movement]? We don't have the answer, but you have to strive for your own perfect standard,' says Poon. There are six gymnastic activities for men: the pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, horizontal bars and floor exercises. For women, there are the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercises. Each activity has its own requirements. For example, floor exercises require gymnasts to have explosive strength and flexibility, while the pommel horse demands strong arms and stomach muscles. The competitive life of a gymnast is short compared with other sports. Girls reach peak form when they are 15 and 16. By around 20, they have to retire and turn to coaching or pursue other careers. Male gymnasts can compete for a little longer because their bodies mature later. Their peak form comes at about 17 or 18, and most of them will not retire until they are 26. Unsurprisingly, the sport - whose name evolved from the word 'gymnasium', the place where the ancient Greeks practised sport and debated issues of art and philosophy - can benefit your mind as well as your body. Greek philosophers such as Plato argued that gymnastic activities could help us develop a balance between our mind and body. 'The sport has brought me self-confidence and a fighting spirit,' says Poon, who has practised gymnastics since he was in primary school 'You can achieve everything as long as you train hard. It depends on whether you are willing to put in the effort or not.' Gymnastics can also help you overcome defeat and rebound quickly. During a competition, gymnasts have only 30 seconds to climb back on their equipment after a fall. There is no time for self-doubt or fear. 'You have to overcome the loneliness. The coach has walked away and you will feel very lonely once you step on the stage ... You have to climb up yourself [after a fall] as nobody can help you,' says Poon.