When she was five, Janelle Leung Ya-lei stumbled across a fencing class at a shopping mall and the chance encounter changed the course of her life. “I saw the fencers suited up in their protective gear, and they looked so cool, so I told my dad I wanted to try it,” she says.
Over time, her passion for fencing grew and when she turned 13, she joined the Fencing Team of Hong Kong, China. The first time she took part in the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in 2022, Janelle clinched gold medals in the Junior Category Foil Individual event and Junior Category Foil Team events. Recently, she won a bronze medal in the Women’s Foil Team event at the 2023 Asian Under 23 Fencing Championships.
The enterprising young foil fencer is well on her way to achieve two of her biggest dreams: qualifying for the Olympic Games and becoming a Chinese medicine practitioner who provides healthcare and injury rehabilitation for athletes.
Aspiring to help athletes
For a combat sport which originates in dueling, modern fencing has a relatively low injury rate. Still, fencers may sustain overuse injuries such as strains, sprains, and muscle soreness. To Janelle, injuries can profoundly impact professional athletes.
“For athletes who suffer from injuries, the rehabilitation process may take a long time, which affects their performance and rankings. Therefore, I hope to be able to provide athletes with quality healthcare to help them recover,” she says.
Her interest in sports medicine has turned her attention towards traditional Chinese medicine. She believes traditional Chinese medicine, with its long history and theories of yin and yang and five elements, is effective in preventing chronic illnesses and maintaining health. She is also drawn to Chinese medicine therapies like Tui Na and acupuncture which can aid injured athletes.
With the same assertiveness she applies to fencing, Janelle set her sights on studying Chinese medicine. This year, she was admitted to the Bachelor of Chinese Medicine and Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Biomedical Science programme through HKBU’s Talented Athletes Direct Admission Scheme (TADAS). The University introduced TADAS in response to the Student-Athlete Learning Support and Admission Scheme launched by the University Grants Committee. Besides flexible study arrangements, TADAS also supports outstanding athletes in Hong Kong with personalised mentorship, academic advice, psychological counselling, and career planning.
Dr Hon Sze-sze, Lecturer I of the Department of Sport, Physical Education and Health, coordinates support for elite athletes and says Janelle is driven in her pursuit of academic excellence. “She is resolute in studying Chinese medicine. We are delighted to see students who are determined to take up challenges. The University will support Janelle to help her fulfil her potential in both sports and academic work,” she says.