By Chan Ming-tai – Athletics Athlete
What a big word, I still can barely resist checking left and right when I hear those words, just to make sure they are actually talking about me and not somebody else. My ‘small potato’ feelings aside, after taking a nice, long (well-deserved) post-Olympic holiday, I have resumed training for nearly three months now! So what is different now? Same training routine, but a different mentality. When I first started training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI), I was a junior athlete trying to be competitive at the Asian level. ‘Dream big’, my coach told me and that now has become one of my mottos. After three years of intensive and systematic training, with endless detailed planning and careful execution, not to mention the unfailing support of our world-class HKSI support team, I am happy to say, with the success and competition experience to back me up, that I am one step closer to my dream – to be a world-class athlete.
Four months ago I was competing at my first-ever Olympic Games, and now I have already finished the first semester in my fourth year at The University of Hong Kong (HKU)! Since last year, I have been a full-time athlete whilst continuing my studies at HKU. Although taking fewer courses means my graduation will be slightly postponed, I love being able to keep doing what I love at a level that will hopefully bring me closer to my dreams, while also maintaining my academic pursuits in preparation for the future. Do these two identities ever clash? Sure, every time a training opportunity overseas comes up that clashes with an examination, every time I have to cram as much as I can on the MTR on the way to training because I have a test the next day but will probably be too tired to study that night, and every time I have to email a lecturer with my ‘sincerest apologies for the inconvenience caused’ because I have to switch classes to accommodate changes in my training schedule.
I was asked recently how much sacrifice I think I have made academically for being an athlete, how many opportunities I have missed to prepare for the future like fellow university students. Even though I study accounting and finance, I really do not consider life as a balance sheet with losses and gains to be calculated meticulously. Sport has made me come a long way, taking me to many places, connecting me with so many people with perhaps more success but just as much drive and passion as I have for my sport, and giving me unique opportunities to observe, learn and engage. I have even encountered academic learning opportunities where I have been able to use what I have learned and gained from sport to give me an advantage over my peers in understanding and completing the task. I find myself realising my dream, learning from what I do and doing what I love.
The coming season will be busy for me, with four major championships to work towards, including the Asian and World Championships, World Universiade and National Games of China. My target for this season is achieving 8.15m while consolidating 8m performance. I am looking forward to the coming competition season and I have already felt excited even just thinking about it!
To my HKSI family, from sports scientists, medical staff, support staff, to all my fellow athletes training hard for your own dreams and goals – thank you for all your support in this year, and good luck to you in the year ahead!