Biography: Puk Chi Yeung is a full-time taxi driver who in his spare time rows for the Hong Kong Rowing Paralympic Team. He won gold at the Asian Rowing Championships in 2007 and bronze at the Asian Paralympic Games in 2010.
How did you find out about the opportunity to join the Paralympics Rowing Program?
Originally, I actually participated in the kayaking program located beside the rowing program. One day, while kayaking on the river, I saw the rowing program and wanted a new challenge. I wanted to try something new, so I decided to join the Paralympics Rowing Program.
Can you describe in more detail about the Paralympics Rowing Program?
In rowing, there is solo rowing, 2 man rowing, 4 man rowing and 8 man rowing. As a Paralympics rowing athlete, we are allocated to which type of rowing depending on our physical condition.
What have you learned and experienced from this rowing opportunity?
First off, rowing has helped my health and fitness. This is extremely important, as my lack of movement opportunity due to my physical disability, along with my disability causing my muscles to weaken faster than normal people if not worked, makes it all the more vital that I play sports. Also, this opportunity has given me a sense of pride and confidence. I can forever say that I represented Hong Kong in an international competition. Lastly, the opportunity to travel worldwide to attend tournaments has open my perspective towards the world outside Hong Kong and allowed me to meet people from all over the world.
Can you please elaborate more on your experience competing overseas?
I was able to visit many countries including England, Germany, and Korea. While there, I felt like I was part of a greater community. Everyone there could relate to each other, as we all suffered from physical or mental disabilities, but were able to overcome them and become Paralympic athletes. Furthermore, I was able to make many life long friends that to this day I still keep in touch with. But most importantly, the organizers of these events made us feel as if we were professional athletes, not just disabled people playing sports. They offered us great eating, and living conditions, and made us feel important and respected. This really helped boost my self-esteem and confidence!
Can you talk about how you balance your life between your full time job being a taxi driver and being a Paralympian?
Being a taxi driver is perfect for me! I have flexible hours, and can stop my taxi for a few hours during the working day if necessary to come here and row. This unique relationship cannot be offered by office jobs, where I would have to sit at a desk for the whole day. So although I earn less money when I take time off from work to come row, it is totally worth it getting the opportunity to row, to improve my health, and most importantly to have fun. Lastly, driving a taxi requires a lot of energy and focus. Often after rowing, instead of feeling tired from the workout, I feel energized from the happiness of playing the sport I love.
What have you learnt while rowing that you have brought into your daily life?
The most important thing I have learnt is how rowing has changed my life around. I realized that sports can impact all areas of my life, and can have a profound impact on my happiness, confidence, and outlook on life. In the last few years, many of my other disabled friends after hearing my experience have also taken up rowing or other sports as a way to improve their life.
The following interview was conducted over the telephone with Mr. Wong
Biography: Mr. Wong is a teacher at Zheng Sheng College (only drug rehabilitation school in Hong Kong, which uses basketball and track&field to rehabilitate its students)
How did you become involved with Zheng Sheng College?
I was introduced to Zheng Sheng College by one of the school’s administrator. Throughout my life, I have attended and later helped many different drug rehabilitation centers in Hong Kong, and even gone to prison. So, when I learnt about Zheng Sheng College and how it helps students battle drug addiction, I decided to join the school as a teacher.
Why does your school use sports to help the students?
Most of our students have made mistakes in the past due to too much energy. Thus, we offer sports as a way for our students to release energy in an effective and safe way.
Why does your school use basketball and long distance running and not other sports?
Our school believes that basketball is one of the most effective sport for our students. First off, the tight rules against physical contact is perfect for our students, many of whom have had physical violence problems in their past. Secondly, the controlled atmosphere on the basketball court helps our students, as they are quite prone to getting angry. Lastly, skills such as teamwork, discipline can be learned while playing with teammates on the court. For long distance running, its perfect in that anyone can participate. As unlike other sports where talent can make a significant difference, a lot of practice and training can allow anyone to succeed. This is very important for our students, as their past background and low self esteem as a result of their past mistakes makes them very vulnerable to giving up. Furthermore, long distance running helps train discipline and dedication, as it requires our students to constantly practice to improve and beat their goal.
Can you describe more about your basketball team’s unique style of play?
At Zheng Sheng, our basketball team plays a tactic known as help-defense. This requires every player to not only do their own job well, but also help their teammates if necessary. This idea helps instill in our students the mentality that in life, you must do your own job well, and then help others when you can.
What do you think about the power of sports to change the lives of your students?
I believe that sports is a gift from God. People must have physical activity and this is God’s gift. For example, sports can help our students lose weight, as our students can set a weight target and achieve it through sports. Sports can also help bring positivity to our students’ life. As the joy and happiness on the field can raise our students’ esteem and confidence, which they can bring into their normal life. Lastly, students will often have conflicts with each other or with the other team while on the pitch. So, they must learn how to work with others and solve or overcome these problems.
Succeeding in track and field despite physical and mental disabilities. The Loretta Claiborne story, based on a true story, follows the experience of Loretta and her mother, who fight through countless impediments to help Loretta achieve her dream of participating in track and field. The mother and daughter also receive help from a kind-hearted social worker Janet who urges the two to not stop fighting for Loretta’s dream.
Loretta’s story is just another reminder of how if someone is passionate and determined about something, he or she will nearly always get it done. In the movie, Loretta was able to eventually participate in the Special Olympics and the Boston Marathon.
Director: Lee Grant
Screenwriter: Grace McKeaney
Main Actors: Kimberly Elise, Tina Lifford, Camryn Manheim
To learn more please visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0232002/