Former windsurfer runs like the wind for Hong Kong rugby
- Although she started her competitive sports career as a windsurfer, Chan is now flying all over rugby pitches here in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Rugby Union women’s coach Jo Hull said Chan brings ‘strike power and pace’ to the national squad
Stephanie Chan Chor-ki has had the same dream for as long as she can remember: to be a professional athlete.
Born in Canada but raised in Hong Kong, she took a bit of a detour to land a spot as a full-time rugby player for Hong Kong’s national 15 and sevens squads.
When Chan was 11, her parents felt she needed an outlet for her restlessness, as her inability to sit still was driving her folks a bit bonkers.
“They wanted to find an outdoor activity for me,” said the 27-year-old. “Because I was too energetic, and windsurfing was perfect because I was out of the house all day.”
Chan competed in local windsurfing competitions and said she enjoyed it, however she realised fairly quickly she wasn’t good enough to make a career out of it. She was doing it part-time, and was competing overseas but wasn’t able to break into the top ranks of the sport and thus funding was minimal. She also noted the sport was expensive when it comes to equipment.
So Chan did the natural thing, and turned to rugby of all things. First she did a bit of trail running, but found it wasn’t scratching her energetic itch properly.
“Then I saw a poster in Kowloon for rugby, and that was it.”
She said rugby gave her the chance to do something she loved.
“In rugby you can tackle, I played handball but there were too many rules. You cannot run with the ball, but in rugby that is all you do. I love to run with the ball.”
Chan’s first season was in 2011 playing for the Revolution SRC Ladies, and slowly but surely her speed started to turn heads.
By 2017 she was suiting up for Hong Kong’s sevens squad and her play once again caught the attention of the right people. Hong Kong Rugby Union women’s coach Jo Hull said Chan has been impossible to ignore, and a move to the Gai Wu Falcons in the women’s premiership league this October further upped her game.
“She is new to the fifteens programme [in 2018],” said Hull. “But she has been on our radar for several years. She transferred to Gai Wu this season and really is a player that has emerged off of the back of training and playing hard at club level, before she started to shine at sevens.”
Hull added Chan’s natural athleticism was evident in her play. And although she only stands 155 centimetres, Hull said she can slot in almost anywhere as a back – at fly-half, wing or full back.
“She offers us a lot of versatility in terms of her pace and her decision-making in attack, and her footwork. We’re looking at her across a few positions as she gives us a lot of strike power and pace.”
Gai Wu coach Lai Yiu-pang said Chan was quiet off the field and preferred to let her play do the talking.
“She is a very hardworking player and is still learning on and off the field.”
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) October 27, 2018
Chan, who got her first cap for the 15s during the team’s Autumn tour of Spain and Wales, said she still windsurfs on occasion, but right now her mind is singular, as she has reached her lifelong goal of becoming a professional athlete.
“I’ve always wanted to be an athlete,” she said, noting she is taken up photography as a hobby as a way to relax outside work. “I’ve just never been able to think of anything else to do, so this is it for me.”