Gymnast Shek Wai-hung had to juggle his studies at the Education University of Hong Kong with intense training in the run up to this year’s Asian Games, but what set his mind at ease was the school’s willingness to give him more time for assignments and allow him to reschedule assessments.
Shek struck gold in the men’s vault on August 24 at the event hosted by the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang, defending the title he won four years ago at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
“Two days before the final, I was really nervous because the public had expectations of me,” said Shek, who is in his third year of a bachelor’s degree in health education.
“I like mindfulness because it makes me calm and allows me to see things from a different perspective.”
Shek was among six current and former students honoured by the university on Tuesday after winning medals at the Games.
The others were gold medallists Leo Au Chun-ming, the men’s singles squash champion, and rugby sevens player Eric Kwok Pak-nga; and Chau Yee-ping, Choi Wan-yu and Li Ching-wan, who won bronze medals for rowing, karate and table tennis respectively.
“For me the flexibility of the timetable is really important because as professional athletes we have to train at a certain time that is scheduled by the team,” Kwok said.
Hong Kong had its best-ever haul of 46 medals at the Games, which ended on Sunday. It sent 586 athletes to Indonesia, with 46 of them undergraduates or graduates of Education University.
“The university makes special arrangements to meet the schedules of these elite athletes,” said Ada Ma, associate professor in the health and physical education department.
“They can get learning materials online and the time to submit assignments and do assessments is also flexible for them.”
The university wants to change the public perception that athletes cannot make a living and to share with the wider community that there is no conflict between studying and competing in sports.
It believes athletes can pursue higher degrees to enhance their professional development. And with higher education, they can transfer all these skills to different careers.
On Tuesday, it announced a new postgraduate scholarship for top athletes and presented the first one to Au.
Au said he would still focus on playing squash competitively for now and see if he could further his studies later, to have more career choices besides being a coach, like many other retired athletes.