Retiring atheletes go back to school

Three years ago Mr Chan King-yin decided to retire. He was only 28. Having already won two gold med- als at the Asian Games and with a 3-year- old son at home, Hong Kong windsurfing champion Mr Chan decided not to train for the London Olympics.

He was immediately granted two scholarships to study for an undergradu- ate degree in Physical Education and Recreation Management at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Mr Chan set three goals when he was an athlete: to compete in the Olympic Games, to get married and have a happy family and to be a university graduate. Now, all three have been accomplished.

Now 31, Mr Chan is a coach for the Hong Kong national windsurfing team. He hopes his team members achieve their dreams, just like he managed to do not long ago.

"The life of a sportsman is rather flat. It's about training and hard work," he said. "My advice for serving athletes is to be prepared for retirement, plan- ning what should be and will be done afterwards."

For young athletes still in their prime, retirement is not a far-fetched idea.

Mr Angus Ng Ka-long, 20, a Hong Kong national badminton team member, said he is worried about retirement.

"I think I will return to school be- cause I am not interested in coaching work," said the athlete, ranked 43 in the world.

Two years ago, Mr Ng had a chance to be admitted by local universities through the Outstanding Sportsmen Recommendation Scheme.

"I didn't take that path. I need to con- centrate on my training, and there is no other way but to practise hard," he said.

In 2008, the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, Chi- na launched the Hong Kong Athletes Career & Education Programme. The programme, third of its kind in Asia, sup- ports athetes through career develop- ment, education and life skills training.

Head of Office of the Hong Kong Athletes Career and Education Pro- gramme, Mr Sam Wong Tak-sum, said that injuries, deselection, and ageing are the three major factors that bring a sportsman's career to an end.

Mr Wong, who is a retired athlete himself, said, "Retired athletes may then go to work, coaching, start a business or pick up textbooks again.

Athletes must re-adapt to the educa- tion system, for example the university application procedure and admission requirements, he added.

"Now, our programme covers 44 national sports associations and more than 300 athletes. I would say our per- formance is satisfactory, but we still have a lot to do. We want to reach more ath- letes," he said.

Through the School Sports Pro- gramme Coordinator Pilot Scheme, retired athletes have alternate job opportunities. But the catch is that only 15 slots are available and the scheme will end next September.

The Hong Kong Sports Institute started the Athletes Integrated Educa- tional and Vocational Development Pro- gramme in 2008. As of this April among 1257 elite athletes who took part 144 had plans to retire soon.

Athlete Retirement Assistant Grant provides funds on enrolling education programmes, vocational training as well as receiving medical treatment for sports injuries rehabilitation.

While financial support and on- the-job training may be crucial, Hong Kong Baptist University physical educa- tion Associate Professor Dr Lobo Louie Hung-tak described education as "the momentum for striving upward social mobility".

"Instead of attending universities or other tertiary institutions, these full- time sportsmen had devoted most of their time to training and playing games," he said.

"Knowledge can transform the life of these talented athletes. The govern- ment can allocate more publicly funded university places for them," he added.

"Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish. We all know the answer," Dr Lobo said.

By Harry Ng

Edited by Lokie Wong

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.

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