SOTY 2014: Sportsperson award requires dedication on and off the pitch

By Ariel Conant

Medals and championships aren't enough to pick up the Sportsperson award, you need to show great dedication too

By Ariel Conant |

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It takes more than just natural athleticism to be named SCMP's Student of the Year - Sportsperson. To be the best, it takes a strong dedication to your sport as well as a great effort to promote sport and exercise within the community. And on top of all of that, candidates must have good grades.

But awards and grades can only get you so far. The final decision for the ultimate winner of the Sportsperson award comes down to the interviews with the judging panel. And this year's selection of students made it hard for the judges to identify a clear frontrunner from such a strong group.

Judge and Deputy Secretary General, Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong and China, Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, expressed his admiration for the commitment he saw from this year's candidates. "I was very impressed today," he said. "They all spoke beautiful English. Their presentations clearly [highlighted] their long-term goals ... even at a young age, they plan ahead."

Fellow judge and lecturer at the Department of Sports Science & Physical Education at City University, Daniel Lee Chi-wo, agreed that the students exceeded expectations with their presentations. "Students today were between 15 and 17," he said. "Their presentations were all very mature. They can critically analyse their performance and plan how to improve. It's not easy to find your way to improve, not only physically, but mentally."

South China Morning Post Sports Editor and the final judge on the panel, Noel Prentice, was particularly impressed with the passion this year's group of candidates showed in their presentations. "This year the assessment choice is more even," he said. "You have to be at the top of your game with international awards and results, competing in Asia if not internationally in your age group." Prentice added that the calibre of students this year was particularly high, and all of them were already role models for other young athletes.

Swimmer Jasmin Au, 16, a student from Maryknoll Convent School, feels lucky because her parents support her love of sport. "My mother always says: 'Attitude not aptitude determines your altitude'," she said. Jasmin practises four times a week and is swim captain of her school, as well as president of its sports association. While swimming is her favourite sport, it's not the only one she's involved in. "[Sport] is a part of my life," she says. "Gymnastics, athletics, hockey."

Fellow contestant Tina Ip Shuk-tin, a 14-year-old student from St Paul's Convent School, trains five or six days a week. She has represented Hong Kong in overseas badminton competitions. She admits that it's not always easy, even for those who love athletics.

"Fitness training is probably the worst part of it," she said, "but I have also learned the most through that training. I've learned not to be afraid of toughness."

Tina's goal is to win a medal at the junior world badminton championship, and she already knows she wants a career in sport. "I am happy when I play badminton. I want to be the best badminton player, hopefully in the world."

Jasmin also plans on picking a career which will be helped by her love of sport. "My ultimate goal is to become a physiotherapist," she says. "I am fascinated with how the body works when we do exercise."

Prentice hopes that the success of these young athletic achievers will inspire others around Hong Kong.

"They have a bright future before them," he said. "They are the future of Hong Kong sport, they need a lot of guidance and investment. The government needs to nurture these talents and invest in them."

More importantly, the judges said sport and exercise play an important role in helping students become well-rounded individuals. "Parents often don't realise that playing in a team helps develop life skills, leadership skills," says Prentice.

And Tina agrees: "Sport makes people happy and helps students to study."