The 19th Asian Games commenced on September 23, 2023 in Hangzhou, the People’s Republic of China.
Hong Kong’s women’s field hockey team made their way to Hangzhou on September 21, 2023, departing the city fuelled with hope and the past 5 years of continual trainings behind their backs.
For these players, winning the women’s field hockey event at the 19th Asian Games means securing a berth at the Paris Olympics next year. But before that, the 10 competing teams have to begin with the preliminary stage first, where teams are divided into two groups – Pool A and Pool B – and compete in a single-headed round-robin format. This means that the teams will have to compete with every other team in the same Pool.
For the Hong Kong players, this entails gruelling matches with athletes beyond their caliber.
“Unfortunately, we are in the stronger pool, so we have to face tough teams like India (world ranking 7) and Korea (world ranking 12) early in the tournament,” Yammi Chui, the team’s striker and midfielder explains, “They have many experienced skilful players in the team, and we anticipate a fast-paced game.”
So far, the Hong Kong team has competed with the Malaysian and South Korean teams and lost in both by 8 goals to nil and 7 goals to nil respectively.
For the past 5 years, the Hong Kong team has trained day in and day out for the Asian Games, some placing academic pursuits or career goals on the sidelines to prepare for this competition that only takes place every four years.
Law Ka Mun Melissa was first exposed to field hockey during her time at The University of Hong Kong and has been playing for 11 years since then. As a physiotherapist, she switched from full-time to freelance work to accommodate for trainings, even doing recovery drills and strength work together with her clients to “blend hockey training with her work”.
Chui is a full-time student at The University of Hong Kong, and chose to defer a year of studies for the sport.“This way, I have more flexibility to attend extra trainings and overseas test matches in preparation for the games. I am thankful for my faculty for accommodating my study needs and supporting my sports career,” she shares.
As a full-time social work master’s student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Yick Cheuk Tung tries to balance the demanding responsibilities of both roles by “doing everything as efficiently as possible”.
“Most importantly, remind myself to go through the tough times and not give up, when trainings are tiring and deadlines are coming,” Yick shares.
‘Pushing’ Forward Against Tough Competition
The Hong Kong team will be facing off with India on October 3, 2023 and competing in their rank match on October 5 or 7, 2023.
In the 2018 Asian Games, India placed 2nd while Japan reigned champion.
Arif Ali, the team’s coach, thinks that the Indian team will be their toughest opponent because of their skillfulness, strong physical prowess, and excellent bonding between teammates.
However, he believes that their first two matches against much higher ranked teams “raises our standards in all departments”.
Despite the weighty challenge that faces them, the Hong Kong team players demonstrates strong unity in unwavering eagerness to dedicate their all on the field.
“True, as part-time athletes we may not be strong enough to compete with the professionals for a chance at the podium yet, but it won’t hurt us to give our best shot, to put what we have learnt into test and see how much further we can go,” Chui expresses, “Afterall, Asian Games happen only once in four years so we are ready to enjoy our time on the pitch and fight till the final whistle.”
Ali’s goal is for the Hong Kong Team to finish 7th in the competition, an improvement of 2 ranks from last time.
Featured Image: Yammi Chui