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Law Hiu Fung on Rowing: Recharging, Renewal, RebirthHKU SPACE
Today we head down to the Shing Mun River. We are greeted by Law Hiu Fung, who opens up to us about the past few years of his life. “I’m in the water at 6 a.m. every morning, rain or shine, to start training,” he tells us. The athlete appears confident, composed, and grounded. And yet, as we are about to learn, this wasn’t always the case.
The Aftermath of Success
There was a time when Law Hiu Fung was a star. In Form Five, he represented Hong Kong at the Asian Youth Championships in India and brought home a gold medal. Following this triumph, Law became a full-time athlete and achieved outstanding results at the Asian Games and World Championships. Dubbed “the best rower Hong Kong had seen in years”, Law went on to compete at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing. The name “Law Hiu Fung” became inextricably linked to the sport: whenever people talked about rowing, Law’s name would inevitably crop up.
Such fame and glory resulted in mounting expectations and pressure. Observing that his improvement was slowing, Law felt increasingly frustrated about his lack of progress. In 2006, while training for the Asian Games, his frustration boiled over. Law recalls, “My coach kept repeating the same things, and I felt that he wasn’t helping. I lost control and hurled my water bottle at him. The bottle exploded. We were both shocked. Afterwards I felt so guilty and wept in my room.” Law apologised the next day. While he wasn’t expelled from the team, the experience turned out to be an important watershed moment, prompting him to question whether his days as an athlete were about to end.
Recharge and Renewal
In 2012 Law failed to qualify for the Hong Kong team for the London Olympics. Lost and confused, he decided to put his career as an athlete on hold and become a coach. Sponsored by the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, Law enrolled in the Advanced Diploma in Recreation and Sports Management course at HKU SPACE. Law said, “The two-year course taught me how to manage a sports team and how to improve my work as a coach. I finally understood my own coach’s methods all those years ago!” Law also learned about sports infrastructure in different countries, gaining knowledge that substantially widened his horizons.
Through the course, Law also rediscovered a taste for learning. Having become a professional athlete immediately after Form Five, he’d never had a chance to study at university. Law said, “I’m quite an introvert by nature, and rowing is a solitary activity. In class, however, I had to work with classmates on group projects. It was interesting, and I began to express myself more. I also learned to view things from more perspectives, and to consider other people’s feelings.”
In the beginning, Law encountered difficulties with vocabulary. “If my classmates needed an hour to complete an assignment, I might need two, or even three hours.” When tackling challenges in the classroom, Law harnessed the sports discipline of a professional athlete. Meanwhile, his new focus on learning helped loosen up his attitude towards sports in general. The break from competing gave Law new perspectives, helping him see everything in a clearer light.
Rebirth and Humility
During his two years as a coach, Law never stopped training. Recognising that he still had potential, Law’s coach encouraged him to compete professionally again. Law said, “My coach reminded me that an athlete’s lifespan is short, and that I should make the best use of my time.”
Convinced, Law prepared for his comeback. This time around, he found himself no longer consumed by the pressures of success. “When I returned to the team, there were many new rising stars. I was able to accept that I wasn’t at the top any more, and I finally put down my ‘crown’.” Apart from this newly gained humility, Law found himself changed in other ways: he interacted more with teammates, and even participated in doubles competitions for the first time. Compared to his earlier years, Law performed with greater stability and confidence, and achieved a medal at the 2016 Asian Rowing Championship. Law revealed that, “My next goal is the 2018 Asian Games.”
Towards Greater Horizons
After over a decade of being a full-time athlete, Law chose to step back, become a coach, and take up studying before once again getting out on the water. With a diploma under his belt, Law no longer dreads retirement, because the knowledge he has gained has opened up new roads and options for him. Burden-free, Law now rows with greater confidence, assurance, and conviction. He said, “We all need to keep learning. No matter who you meet in life, or what you encounter, you can always find something to learn from everyone and everything.”