How this 16-year-old swimmer and cross country runner combines sports and science

Sixteen-year-old Fung Ki-kei’s love of both the physical and theoretical sides of sport helped her become Hong Kong’s top-scoring physical education student

Nicola Chan |

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Fung Ki-kei warms up and stretches before a hard workout.

Fung Ki-kei doesn’t just love playing sport – she loves knowing the science behind how our bodies work.

In addition to being an elite swimmer and cross country runner, the 16-year-old loves biology, psychology and physical education. Her passion for the latter subject earned her the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award as Hong Kong’s top scorer in physical education for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams.

Although the South Island School student admitted it was both physically and mentally challenging to perform well in her four sports as well as the written exam, the combination of practical and theoretical study is also what she loves about PE.

“I think my innate interest in sport, coupled with my interest in biology and psychology, made me enjoy the subject and, hence, do well in it,” Ki-kei told Young Post.

Having started swimming at the age of five, it was only natural that Ki-kei would continue with the sport when she moved to secondary school. But she wanted to make the most of her aquatic experience, so she decided to learn life saving and water safety.

According to Ki-kei, lifesaving – being able to save a person from drowning – involves recognising potentially dangerous situations, and approaching a casualty without endangering your own life. Water safety is more about learning personal survival techniques, such as swimming a considerable distance using a variety of strokes, or being able to make a floatation device out of your own clothes.

Both skills sound exhausting, but Ki-kei says it’s actually her above-water activity – cross country – that is the most physically and mentally demanding.

“It is very arduous and tiresome,” she said of long-distance running. “However, I’m able to keep going thanks to the unwavering mindset I have developed from years of swimming training.”

But perseverance isn’t the only quality that’s led her to both theoretical and practical excellence in multiple sports. Her fascination for biology and psychology, both of which have, in her words, “a big link to PE”, also factor in.

“For example, [in biology] we learn about different types of muscles and how they can help athletes specialised in certain sports,” Ki-kei said. One useful fact she’s learned is that sprinters have more fast-twitch muscle fibres so they can expend a lot of energy in a short time, while cross-country athletes have more slow-twitch muscle fibres, which use energy more efficiently over longer distances.

Her knowledge of sports psychology, meanwhile, helps her get through the tough, often mentally draining, times.

“We learn about how we can optimise our performance, and that a lot of that has to do with having the right mindset, being able to visualise [potential] outcomes and, overall, being optimistic about reaching [your] own goal,” she said.

Ki-kei also received help from others.

“Teachers have a sound understanding of your abilities and interests, and can give you optimal advice on what you should study and why,” she said.

“Coaches are a great resource, too, specifically for coursework because they have a deep understanding of the sports that they teach.”

She added that their feedback had allowed her to acknowledge her mistakes and shortcomings, and as a result, fix them.

With her International Baccalaureate exams coming up, Ki-kei said she would try her best to keep up with her sports, but might have to cut down to make more time for revision.

But the sport is too much a part of her to ever stop completely, though.

“Make no mistake,”she said. “I’m not ready to give up swimming anytime soon!”

Edited by Ben Young