[sponsored] As one of the most successful years in Hong Kong sport – punctuated by Siobhan Haughey breaking a world record – draws to a close, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student athletes are setting goals for the coming year.

Long jumper Chun Hei Chan has set several smaller goals to improve his personal best bit by bit to keep himself motivated, until he reaches the 8.2 metres required to qualify for the Olympics. Table tennis player Pedrey Ng looks forward to more international competitions, but also to making the most of university life as classes return to face-to-face mode. With support from HKUST, they believe they can make their dreams come true and aim at bringing Hong Kong a medal from Paris. 

Pedrey represented Hong Kong at the 14th National Games, and competed in women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles matches.

Pedrey Ng began playing table tennis in primary school. She’d always been keen on sports but never considered becoming a full-time athlete until she was tapped to become a potential athlete for the Hong Kong Youth Table Tennis team. In July 2021 Pedrey was signed on as an Elite Athlete and a member of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Team. 

Having scored highly in the International Baccalaureate exams she considered going abroad for university, but ultimately decided to stay so she could play for the Hong Kong team. HKUST’s Student Athletes Admissions Scheme (SAAS) offered her an attractive scholarship, and academic flexibility such as rescheduling the exams to allow her attending competition overseas, as well as reducing her study load by extending her four-year degree program to as long as eight years. She is now a first year Risk Management and Business Intelligence major with a strong interest in computer science. 

Pedrey with the HKUST Table Tennis Team. Photo: Supplied.

“Since I chose the path to be a student athlete. I have the responsibility to try my best in both.”

Chun Hei Chan

Chun Hei Chan is a year three marketing student and long jumper, currently ranked fourth in Hong Kong. He is hoping to become a full time athlete after graduation. 

Balancing school and sports is not an easy feat. Most student athletes quit sports in secondary school when school becomes more challenging. Hei, however, does not regret the decision to pursue further. “I chose my path myself so I can’t say ‘Oh, I’m tired’ and give up one of them,” he says. “Since I chose the path to be a student athlete. I have the responsibility to try my best in both.”

As a full-time elite athlete, Pedrey joins other young players and trains every day at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. Photo: Supplied.

“You have to do it because if you want to achieve something that others can’t achieve, you have to sacrifice something,” says Pedrey, who often stay up late for studies at night because she trains up to eight hours a day. 

As such, it’s not always possible to separate studies and sports and neither would they want to. For Pedrey there’s a huge connection between school and sports. There’s no use only studying what’s going to be on the exam – the real benefits come from going the extra mile. To widen her approach she started taking computer science classes at the university, giving students the flexibility to explore beyond one’s own major. “You have to make yourself learn out of scope,” she says. 

Hei has competed in many inter-school, local, and regional competitions since his secondary school years. Photo: Supplied.

Hei adds that he often finds himself applying the things he learns in school to his training and vice versa. Though marketing and long jump may seem worlds apart at first, he approaches both with a similarly steadfast and persistent mindset. 

Choosing a university that gives athletes the chance to build their career is therefore crucial. Support from faculty and flexible academic plans offered by HKUST have gone a long way in helping Pedrey and Hei reach their career goals both on and off the field. 

As a business student, Hei joined an interdisciplinary team project that examined sustainability challenges in Thailand, and explored feasible solutions to overcome those challenges. Photo: Supplied.

“You have to do it because if you want to achieve something that others can’t achieve, you have to sacrifice something.”

Pedrey Ng

However, Hei recognises that sports careers don’t last long. At the moment he’s putting all his energy into sports and letting academic pursuits take a back seat. Yet, he’s already worked several internships which were sought through the university in preparation for life after sport. “I have to make plans for when I retire,” he says. For now, though, sports remains a priority. “At any time in your life you can study, but when you get older your body won’t let you do this,” he says as he works toward his next goal of breaking 7.3 metres. 

Hong Kong’s Olympic success at Tokyo 2020 has only added oil to Pedrey’s and Hei’s ambitions. “We screamed when they won the prize,” says Pedrey, speaking of the moment when the women’s table tennis team secured Hong Kong’s first medal in the sport. Like most of Hong Kong, Pedrey and her friends at the Hong Kong Sports Institute spent much of August glued to their screens as they cheered on all the Hong Kong athletes, from fencing to karate. 

Hei represented Hong Kong at the 2nd National Youth Games in Shanxi. Photo: Supplied.

One of Pedrey’s idols is Hong Kong table tennis player Minnie Soo, who won bronze in Tokyo. Pedrey says she admires her determination and discipline. “Everybody trains a lot. The thing that makes you better is the mindset,” explains Pedrey.

If one athlete trains six hours a day with a clear goal in mind versus another athlete who simply follows the coaches’ orders, what they gain from these six hours is totally different. “That’s how you become better than others,” she says. 

Hei’s goal is to become the first Hong Kong track and field athlete to make it to the Olympic finals. There have been others who have qualified and competed, but none have made it far in the competition. “Representing Hong Kong makes me happy, but I want to do more than that,” says Hei. He dreams of competing in front of a home audience one day and hopes to see track and field become more popular in the city. 

Though the Paris Olympic Games are not for another two years, preparations are already underway. Pedrey’s parents have already promised to fly to Paris to see her compete and Hei inches closer to qualifying for the games with every personal best he beats. These student athletes have their sights set on the Paris 2024 Olympics and they don’t plan on coming home empty-handed. 

Pursuing sporting dream as a student athlete requires tremendous effort and commitment. The HKUST Students Athletes Admissions Scheme (SAAS) is ready to support you with attractive scholarship offers and favourable admissions considerations! Learn more and apply now.

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