SOTY 2015: Becoming SOTY Sportsperson is as much a mental game as a physical challenge

By Ben Pang

Winning the Student of the Year - Sportsperson award is about more than scoring goals and winning games

By Ben Pang |

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SCMP Student of the Year 2014 Sportsperson Winner Kitty Tam Yik-ching.

The Student of the Year - Sportsperson is awarded to students who excel in their chosen sport and have won notable sporting prizes. But even that's not enough to win when the competition is so fierce. Young Post asked last year's winner and finalists how they stood out from the crowd.

Kitty Tam Yik-ching, was a student at Diocesan Girls' School when she won the award. She had received a sports scholarship to study management at San Diego State University. The judges weren't surprised to hear she had a scholarship, and put it down to her talent and success in her chosen sport, golf. They also pointed to her outstanding performances in international competitions against the world's top athletes.

But just because she was successful doesn't mean it was easy. For Kitty, the toughest competition was the Le Coq Sportif Golf Championship 2011 at Discovery Bay Golf Club. For the first two days of the competition, she was trailing behind, and it didn't look like she had much of a chance. But on the last day, Kitty made a brilliant comeback, and was eventually crowned champion.

"At every competition, I always try to make sure it's my best performance," Kitty says.

She advises this year's contestants to stay positive, even in tough situations. "My determination impressed the judges; they saw that I was mentally tough."

Kitty also reminds students to train hard. "I'm always pushing myself to improve, because other athletes are actually better than me in terms of physical strength and skills. It's important to have a proactive attitude, which enables me to push forward to a better performance," Kitty says.

First runner up Ellie Fong with former chief editor William Zheng

Last year's first runner-up, Ellie Fong, is a Year 11 student at Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School. Since then, she has been a member of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Junior Girls Team, winning silver in the 2015 Chinese Taipei Junior and Cadet Open in Taipei from September 23 to 27.

Ellie says the judges last year were impressed by her personal experiences in the competitions.

"The interviewers were amazed by how I overcame difficulties in individual competitions. When talking about team sports, students can talk about how the team can work together and how they execute a game plan. My strengths are my bat skills and my mental focus, and I need to think about how I can use them to my advantage," said Ellie.

The judges said Ellie shows "full commitment to training and promotes the sport she loves," and a true passion for table tennis.

"Every day I practise for two and a half hours," Ellie told Young Post. It's my enthusiasm for the sport that pushes me to work harder. And I learned a lot of skills, such as forehand attack and how to serve, from watching my idols, Germany's Timo Boll and China's Ma Long."

As well as showing that you are passionate about your sport, Ellie says students should truthfully assess their individual strengths and weaknesses, and show the judges that they have set themselves achievable targets and are committed to reaching these goals.

Second runner up Felix Tang Hoi-yen with former chief editor William Zheng

Second runner-up Felix Tang Hoi-yen was studying at La Salle College last year. He is now studying business administration and law at the University of Hong Kong, and has kept up his commitment to his sport by becoming a member of the HKU table tennis team. Last month, the team won silver in the Jackie Chan Challenge Cup Inter-Collegiate Invitation tournament.

The SOTY judges were impressed with his ability to "keep up with intensive and regular training as well as his academic development".

Felix acknowledges that self-discipline is the key to success: he allocates enough time for training while making sure he still has time to study.

"Students should talk about how they can strike a balance between their studies and sport. This shows the judges that you have good self-management skills," Felix says.

But most of all, Felix says, students should have fun.

"I gained a lot of valuable experience from this event. Meeting different people has broadened my horizons. I have also learned how to deal with different opinions," he says. "Just show that you are happy to be there."