Siblings spar without rivalry: Wushu athletes’ shared journey through sport and education

18 Sep 2023

Growing up, Lau Chi-lung enjoyed very much playing the video game Romance of the Three Kingdoms. One character, Zhao Yun, a general renowned for his combat prowess and spear skills, particularly captivated his imagination. So impressed was he with this character that he changed his name to Chi-lung, mirroring Zhao Yun’s courtesy name, and started taking spear training lessons.

His pursuit of martial arts was further fueled by the film, Ip Man, which left him and his younger sister, Lau Po-yan, fascinated by the martial arts techniques portrayed on-screen. Together, they embarked on a shared journey of learning martial arts, and they are now members of the Wushu Team of Hong Kong, China.

This summer, the siblings took part in the FISU World University Games 2023 held in Chengdu, where Chi-lung brought home a silver medal in the Men’s Nanquan competition. He has now set his sights on the Asian Games, which is held in Hangzhou starting from late September.

“I’m very excited and, at the same time, nervous, as this is my first time participating in the Asian Games. I hope to be able to perform my best and enjoy the competition,” he says.

While he is gearing up for the games, Po-yan is preparing for a different challenge of her own. Admitted to HKBU through the University’s Talented Athletes Direct Admission Scheme (TADAS), she has recently begun her first semester as an undergraduate of the Physical Education and Recreation Management programme. HKBU launched the TADAS in 2022 pursuant to the introduction of the Student-Athlete Learning Support and Admission Scheme by the University Grants Committee. TADAS is specifically designed for local talented athletes who wish to study at HKBU to achieve their full potential in both their sports and academic work.

Chi-lung, who was admitted to HKBU through TADAS last year, has been able to keep up with his studies under the University’s flexible study arrangement despite an intense training and competition schedule. “When I need to attend overseas training and competitions, I will communicate with the teachers in advance and they will arrange online classes for me. In some instances where I couldn’t make it to the group presentations in-person, I would make an individual presentation instead,” he says.

For Po-yan, following her brother’s footsteps in both athletic pursuits and academic goals have opened up doors for her and inspired her to be better. While she is focused on enhancing her athletic performance to take part in more major competitions in the future, she believes she can strike a balance between studying and training. She says: “I find the learning atmosphere of HKBU fitting for my needs, and I appreciate the University’s efforts to adjust the learning schedule to accommodate my training programme.”

Besides flexible learning arrangements, the University also supports elite student athletes with personalised mentorship, academic advice, psychological counselling and career planning. Student athletes are also allowed to extend their study period so that they can pursue their academic studies and develop their sporting careers at the same time.

Dr Hon Sze-sze, Lecturer I of the Department of Sport, Physical Education and Health, says: “Teaching assistants, who are assigned to support the student athletes, will follow up on their learning such as coordinating study arrangements when the athletes have competitions. We also understand that the pressure of competition can take a toll on athletes’ mental health, therefore we pay attention to the student athletes’ emotions and provide counselling if necessary.”

After practising martial arts at a top level for years, both Chi-lung and Po-yan think that the sport has offered them important lessons in life, especially through the appreciation of the virtue of martial arts. Po-yan says, “Learning martial arts helps me learn how to defend and protect myself, but we don’t use these skills to fight or attack others.” Chi-lung also adds that the sport has strengthened his ability to handle stress. “As athletes, we have grappled with pressure from competitions starting from an early age, and we have learnt how to cope with pressure and build a positive mindset,” he says.