Olympic swimmer Stephanie Au tries out her rugby skills with Hong Kong kids on Community Day
Hong Kong’s 2016 Rio Olympics flag bearer shares Sevens tales and future plans as an athlete
As three time Olympian and national sweetheart Stephanie Au Hoi-shun is paraded through a sea of young Hong Kong rugby fans – some of whom mustered up the courage to ask for a selfie – she could not help but reminisce about working behind the scenes of Hong Kong’s biggest sporting event.
“I actually worked at the Sevens for Hong Kong Rugby Union two years ago,” said 25-year-old Au, official ambassador at the first ever HSBC Community Day held in the lead up to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
“I did all the social media, interviewing rugby players and running around the whole time for three days – I loved it!”
A post shared by Stephanie Au 歐鎧淳 (@stephaniehsau) on Apr 2, 2018 at 9:00pm PDT
Instagram junkies may have stumbled across Au’s handiwork – after all, she created the official Hong Kong Sevens account (@hksevens) and posted throughout the 2016 edition of the event. Not a bad person to assign social media duties to, considering her personal account boasts more than 120,000 followers.
“I had permission to go anywhere I wanted, go up to the players and tell them I was an in-house communications person, it was the best thing ever,” she recalled.
Little did the rugby players know they were being interviewed by an Olympic-level swimmer and soon-to-be actress and model.
“It’s less fun when you have to just stand there and [pose for] pictures,” said Au. “When I was working I could decide what I wanted to do and present it to someone else from my angle. You learn to understand people more and where they are coming from.”
Au joined local primary school students in a basic skills rugby clinic at HSBC’s inaugural Community Day, an event aimed to help local communities thrive through sport. The kids were not the only rugby newbies, however.
“That was probably the most rugby I’ve played in my life,” joked Au. “It was so much fun even though I didn’t have much knowledge of the game.”
Au, who rose to fame as the 2016 Rio Olympic flag-bearer for Hong Kong, feels an increasing sense of responsibility to lead by example; to be a stellar role model for the new generation of athletes brewing in the city.
“One of my goals is to let kids and their parents know that becoming a professional athlete in Hong Kong is something you can make a living out of if you try hard [enough],” she said. “Hong Kong has this dynamic there when sports comes in, it’s like a bright light shining onto the city.
“I always say that if it weren’t me walking with the Hong Kong flag, it would still have the same effect. I was just lucky, but since I was the lucky one, I’m trying my best to promote Hong Kong sports.
“There are computers and phones in every single kid’s hands and parents are protective and don’t want their kids to suffer, but I think kids should be doing sports for their well-being. It’s undervalued.”
A post-Rio Olympic Games Au had previously hinted that it could be the last Games of her career, but having seen hungry young athletes in action and visible improvements in her own training regimens, it appears she still has a fire burning in her belly.
“Near future is the Asian Games in Indonesia this September – that’s where I want to do my best for Hong Kong and win a couple of medals,” said Au, who smashed her own 50-metre backstroke record at the World Cup last September. “I’ll decide [after that] if I can keep training and excel at international level, which will be the [Tokyo] 2020 Games. I still believe I have the ability.”