Olympic bronze medallist Minnie Soo Wai-yam’s long-term future in table tennis is up in the air, after she revealed she is going back to school in September because of an injury. Soo has been admitted to the School of Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where she will major in physics for the 2022-23 academic year, under a new admission scheme for elite athletes set up by the University Grants Committee (UGC). The 23-year-old, who made it to the podium in Tokyo with Hong Kong’s women’s team last August, will split her time between her studies and table tennis for the foreseeable future. “A nerve problem in my right arm triggered me to make this decision,” Soo said at a virtual press conference on Zoom on Thursday. Soo thrilled Hong Kong fans when she won both of her matches to steer the women’s team past Germany 3-1 in their bronze medal match at the Games, but said that her physical condition has been declining over the past year. “I couldn’t train too much,” Soo said. “I felt like I was wasting my time, so I decided to go back to school at this age. “I’ve had a nerve problem in my right arm for more than one year. They call it ‘yips’ – it’s like a type of focal dystonia that causes my muscles to contract and stiffen when I play, which is extremely disturbing to my training because I can’t repeat a movement continuously.” Soo has sought plenty of treatment for her arm problem, but it has all been in vain. “I used to train six or seven hours a day, but now I can only manage to three hours,” she said. “The worst thing is I can’t enjoy table tennis because I have a hard time practising the game.” Growing up in a table tennis family, Soo started playing at the age of two and a half, and turned to full-time training at 15, giving up her studies at the prestigious Diocesan Girls’ School. Minnie Soo fulfils childhood dream with Olympic bronze But her mentality has changed since the Tokyo Games . “It’s been a decade since I last studied on campus,” Soo said. “I chose to become a full-time athlete at an age when I should have been studying at school because there is a golden period for every athlete, and I wanted my full potential to be unleashed.” Soo said she developed an interest in physical science after joining an aerospace STEM workshop at the age of eight, in what was one of her few after school activities outside table tennis. She wanted to attend a Little Astronaut programme one summer as a child, but chose to go to Japan for a youth table tennis competition instead. “It has been a wonderful and rewarding journey, and now I will dedicate this passion to the second chapter of my life,” she said. Soo, who most recently played at November’s World Table Tennis Championships in Houston, will fly to Singapore and Doha for two events this month. When asked about the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games in September, she said: “I think it is most productive to face the situation with a relaxed attitude and an open mind to do something.” For now, it is her studies that most excite Soo, who will take the Hong Kong A-Level Exam in May, to prepare for her new life at university, and a potential future career as a scientist or teacher. Soo benefited from the UGC’s new Student-Athlete Learning Support and Admission Scheme (Salsa), which aims to provide flexible and personalised academic support for athletes. The scheme includes options for extending study periods, rescheduling exams, and waiving class attendance. Students may also receive an annual tuition scholarship and living allowance of up to HK$42,100 and HK$55,000 respectively, along with sponsorships for competitions, help with injury prevention, treatment training and counselling services.