Tom Byer is tasked with implementing a total sea-change in the way the country of over a billion people perceives and coaches the sport. As the Chinese Super League...
On the one hand, The HKSSF Inter-School Athletics Competition was a fierce, gruelling battle between Hong Kong’s best young athletes, having to dig deep in order to put on their best performances for the crowd and the schools they represent.
On the other hand, it was a joyous celebration of sport, the chance for students to see their hard work come into fruition on the field, and a fine display of class and sportsmanship.
West Island School girls celebrate a relay victory.
The tournament has three divisions for both boys and girls, with Division 1 being of the highest standard. The competitors are then split into C, B, and A grades depending on age, with A-grade being the oldest. The school’s final score is calculated using the aggregate performance of all three grades, which not only determines which school is champion, but also, which schools will be promoted to a higher division, or relegated into a lower one.
Boys’ and girls’ scores are calculated separately from one another, so it is quite common to see unisex schools with boys and girls competing in different divisions, and therefore, at different times.
On the final day of Division 1 competition saw the very best Hong Kong athletics had to offer. Students were sat in the bleachers, passionately cheering on their comrades at deafening volume, waving school flags and singing songs in something akin to an English football stadium.
In what may have come as a surprise to some, there were several international schools present in the Division 1 finals, which features only the top 16 schools for boys and top 12 for girls.
Impressively, ESF’s West Island School (WIS) boys and girls both made it to their respective Division 1’s, who along with TWGHS Wong Fut Nam College was one of two schools in Hong Kong to accomplish this.
“It’s an incredible achievement just to have made it here,” says Richard Lance, director of Sport at West Island School (WIS) on making it to Hong Kong’s upper echelon of interschool athletics. “We are essentially two schools in this competition.”
Lance points out how several of Hong Kong’s elite athletic schools such as Diocesan Boys’ School and Diocesan Girls’ School are single-sex, but have a similar amount of total students, meaning they have a bigger pool of athletes to choose from. “In that sense, it’s not exactly fair from a numbers’ standpoint.”
“Some people say we’d be better off in Division 2 because we’d see more of our students in the finals,” Lance says. “But I’m a huge believer, and I think our guys want to compete against the best. Some of our students are getting medals and I think winning them in Division 1 is a greater achievement than winning them in Division 2.”
Richard Lance giving his WIS athletes a pep talk.
WIS was, in fact, the only international school whose boys made it into Division 1. However, joining WIS in the girls’ Division 1 were fellow ESF schools King George V School (KGV) and Island School.
“HKSSF is one of my favourite competitions to compete in,” says KGV student Kara Casey, who rose to the occasion to become the 1500m B grade girls’ champion, smashing her previous record time by 11 seconds. “I definitely feel a sense of pride representing my school.”
No-one was happier to see Cheney become champion than Rachel Grantham, PE teacher and athletics director for KGV. Grantham believes that athletics training is supremely beneficial for students, regardless of what sport they play.
“ESF students and KGV students in particular are pulled in many different directions,” says Grantham. “We have athletes who are also rugby players who may also be footballers, basketball players, netballers and so on. We believe that their backgrounds and regimens in athletics will lead them to being successful in those other areas, because in sport, everything stems from athletics.”
Rachel Grantham (second from left) and Kara Casey (right) celebrate with KGV teammates.
Notable highlights of the day include Wong Cheuk Hei Herry of YCKMC breaking the record time for A-Grade Boys’ 200m in the morning with a time of 22.17 seconds, before getting upset in the 100m final by Tse Yee Hin Rico of SJAC later that afternoon.
Chan Pui Kei of GHS also broke the record for 100m girls with a time of 11.85, while Ma Chi Fai of LSC set a new record for Boys’ B-grade 100m with a time of 11.02.