Olympic champion Edgar Cheung Ka-long will be among six elite athletes to enrol at Baptist University this year, as part of a special admission scheme for Hong Kong’s sporting best.
It will be the first time in nine years that the fencer is returning to the classroom, having halted his studies at Form Four at a local secondary school to devote himself full-time to the pistes. The Tokyo 2020 gold medallist acknowledged the challenge, but said he would put his full effort into juggling his athletic career with this new opportunity.
“It has been a very long time since I was last a student. I will try my best to keep up with my studies and apply what I have learned to further my career prospects,” he said.
In particular, Cheung hoped that hitting the books would help him prepare for life after his athletic career, and be equipped with coaching and sports management knowledge.
“I am 25 and need to plan for my future. I cannot be an athlete for my whole life,” he said.
Cheung was admitted to the university’s Physical Education and Recreation Management (PERM) programme through the Talented Athletes Direct Admission Scheme (TADAS) launched earlier this year. A total of 12 athletes applied for the scheme, with six of them successful.
Five other top-performing athletes – rugby player Forrest Shanna Sanman, table tennis player Kwan Man-ho, swimmer Jimmy Kwok Chun-hei, wushu athlete Lau Chi-lung and sprinter Shak Kam-ching – were also accepted into the programme.
The programme covers sport science theories and sport skill practical courses as well as local and overseas internship opportunities in sports management and physical education.
Shak is hoping the knowledge he will obtain through courses will help provide a boost for his performance on the track, while Kwan is especially interested in sport science and psychology.
TADAS replaced the Elite Athletes Admission Scheme that Baptist University introduced in 2016. It allows athletes to choose any given programme of their interest without being confined to those related to sports.
Both active and retired athletes with outstanding achievements or who are nominated by sports institutions are eligible for the scheme.
Rather than focusing on academic achievements, scheme applicants are selected based on interview performance, reference letters from coaches or schools and a self-statement detailing their interests, future plans and commitment to complete the academic studies.
“We enrol from diverse backgrounds. We hope that students talented in various aspects can come together and create a more innovative learning environment,” said Albert Chau Wai-lap, Baptist University’s vice-president of teaching and learning.
While both TADAS and its predecessor provide HK$42,100 (US$5,372) fully-funded or half-funded scholarships each academic year to admitted athletes, the new scheme has some additional backing.
It is also sponsored by the University Grants Committee under the Student-Athlete Learning Support and Admission Scheme with HK$150,000 in funding per successful applicant for their academic support.
Each successful entrant will be paired with a personal mentor for academic counselling, mental support and career planning.
Athletes can enjoy flexible learning arrangements, including one-on-one online courses catered to their training schedules, zoom tutorials to catch up on academic progress and extended study periods.
“We will discuss their lesson timetables with their coaches, so that we can accommodate their training and competition schedules. Athletes can also take their time to complete their respective degrees and do not need to do so within four years,” Chau said.
Separately, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu visited the Hong Kong Sports Institute on Tuesday as he sought their opinions for his maiden policy address in October.
A video of Lee playing table tennis with Hong Kong’s top men’s singles player Wong Chun-ting was posted to the city leader’s Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon, with him looking confident at handling the world No 25’s serves.
Lee said the athletes’ comments helped with the formulation of his first policy address and praised their hard work and contribution to the local sports sector.
He added that the government highly valued sports development and apart from funding elite athletes, would also support young and disabled sportsmen and sportswomen in their training.