CHENNAI: While allegations of child cruelty have hung around China’s sporting system for a long time, they began to gain more of a foothold after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The story of torture at Nanning Gymnasium shook the world. In Hong Kong, methods are not so harsh. But the country’s similarity to India, where academics are given importance, makes it tough for athletes.
“It’s pretty harsh when we are young. We also have to focus on studies and try to get into universities. We need to dedicate a lot of time to take up sport as a profession in Hong Kong, because people expect perfection. So we sometimes push the limit,” Annie Au, who is here for the 19th Asian Individual Championship, told Express.
Some of the practices and techniques followed are particularly harsh, considering the age athletes start training. “When you are young, you take a break during exams. After that, when you return to training, it is a little hectic for your body. You again need to get into the rhythm. That’s where it gets difficult.”
Annnie, who has a degree in management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, thinks expecting them to do wonders is not fair. “They want us to be extremely good. But if you want to take up any sport as a profession, a lot of time is required.”
While the region is famous for producing talents in other racquet sports, squash is slowly picking up. Development schemes at the junior level are good, according to Annie. “When I started, players like Rebecca Chiu would visit us and that was a huge inspiration. Back then, most of us didn’t even know the game.”
The 28-year-old is the women’s top seed here. With Nicol David not travelling with the Malaysian squad, Annie may have a comparatively easy tournament. Her major threats are Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal. But Annie isn’t taking it lightly.
“There is a little pressure when you are seeded No 1, because in Hong Kong, people expect you to at least reach the final. Conditions here are tough, especially the heat. But it was expected. While there is tension, I’m also excited to go and play in the shopping mall,” said the World No 11.
“Since most of our fundings are done by the government, we need to perform. The money is result-oriented. The government will assess us after each tournament and decide if they want to sponsor us further,” she added.