By incorporating sports into the curriculum for balanced student development and supporting those who aspire to become professional athletes, the ESF has produced an array of sporting talents over the years, such as swimmers, rugby players, fencers and more.
Vivian Kong Man-wai, who represented Hong Kong in fencing at the Rio Olympic Games 2016, was born in Vancouver to Hong Kong parents before moving here at the age of six. She had a difficult few months at a local school until her mother stepped in and found for her ESF’s Beacon Hill School, where she was able to thrive. In secondary school she attended Sha Tin College.
Vivian’s fondest memories from her school days revolve around her friends and the fun they had together. Every morning, she looked forward to seeing her classmates and was happy to get to make friends at large inter-school events, such as Fun PE, Ultimate Frisbee, Tag Rugby and lifesaving.
The friends she made at ESF have continuously supported her during her struggle for an Olympic medal. “They always know what to say and have been through so much with me. I can’t imagine life without them,” says Vivian.
Unfortunately, her busy sporting schedule did not allow her to be always there for them, about which she is apologetic.
Vivian got into fencing in a rather unconventional way. Her mother originally wanted her to become a ballerina, but she was very sporty and energetic.
“I really liked to fight and was into Taekwondo until the age of 11,” says Vivian. “Then, my dad told me fencing was ‘the ballet of combat sports’. I tried and loved it.”
Vivian loved going to school and would never miss a day unless it was for a fencing competition. Her teachers were highly supportive and helped her maintain the difficult balance between fencing and academics.
“My teachers really believed in me and I didn’t want to disappoint them,” she says. “I could tell they really cared about us and wanted us to succeed. They taught me how to work hard and supported me the whole way.”
Vivian encourages today’s students to talk to their teachers, get to know them better and not hesitate to ask for advice on any problems they may have. She herself was not sure about her future career or what to study at university, so her teachers encouraged her to take subjects that she was genuinely interested in.
Vivian would eventually get accepted into the prestigious Stanford University.
She took a year off before the Rio Olympics to focus on her training, where she was the first-ever Hong Kong fencer to win a match at the Olympic level. She trained for roughly five hours a day and went to training camps in Paris, Geneva, and Beijing.
“I plan out where I am and what I do at every hour throughout the day,” explains Vivian. “My school is really supportive of student-athletes. I take exams on planes and in hotel rooms, and teaching assistants and professors help me go over material I missed because of competitions. It’s because of this I’ve been able to keep up both my training and studies.”
Vivian will graduate this year with a major in international relations and a minor in Psychology. Then, she will begin her preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
At the same time, she is looking for job opportunities in social entrepreneurship and, in the future, hopes to work in consulting or for the United Nations, creating positive social impact and giving back to society.