Playing to Win

Playing to Win

In the third and final part of our Teen Time series, we interview six real Hong Kong teenagers who are living active lives – they explain their approach to being healthy, remaining competitive, and what staying fit means to them.

For many Hong Kong students, physical fitness, competitive sport and feeling energetic are part of their weekly ritual.



Tippa Chan (TC): Tippa is a 14-year-old competitive swimmer who attends Chinese International School. She has been swimming competitively since the age of nine, following in the footsteps of her elder siblings.

Freddie Fawcett (FF): Freddie, age 11, is about to star in HKYAF’s newest production of Oliver – as Oliver himself. Freddie is a Chinese International School student – a gymnast, runner and swimmer – who competes with his older sister across a range of sports.

Noor Shalabi (NS): Noor, aged 12, attends Harrow International School and is the daughter of Flex founder Heather Thomas Shalabi. She counts sailing, Pilates, netball and swimming as her sports.

India Tory (IT): India, aged 13, studies at Chinese International School and hails from a very sporty and fit family. India is a budding football and tennis player, golfer and runner.

Mason Edwards (ME): Mason, aged 10, is at International Montessori. He plays ice hockey competitively, with extra time allowing him to play football, baseball, basketball. He also likes running.

Katie Lam (KL): Katherine (Katie) Lam is 13 years of age and attends Chinese International School. She is a ballet dancer and also competes in netball, football, basketball and swimming competitions. She recently performed at Clockenflap with Dance Kho.


HP: Are you competitive?

TC: Of course, ?? swimming is an extremely competitive sport, thus the title of the sport: ‘competitive swimming’, but I don’t beat myself up when I don’t beat my time or someone beats me.

FF: Only when its a serious competition, but if it’s just training, then no.

NS: I am not very competitive. I don’t like the pressure on me in a competition. But I can get very competitive with my friends in a small group activity.

IT: I think I am competitive and like winning. Although I like winning, I am not angry when I lose. I never shout and always try to not show any feelings.

ME: Yes, I’m very competitive in every sport, but only towards the other team.

KL: It depends what sport and who I am against. If I am doing basketball, soccer, and netball, then yes, I am very competitive. But if it is ballet or hip hop, then no, I just let myself dance, because it is a more independent sport.

HP: Do you set goals?

TC: Yes, to improve both physically and mentally and to get specific times.

FF: I do set goals, such as “I will be better at this month by month”.

NS: I don’t really set goals, but when I do I try really hard to achieve them. For example, I made a goal to get better at my shoulder pass by the end of term, so have really been practicing it.

IT: At the beginning of each session, I try to think of a goal, or get given one by a coach. It ranges from getting my crosscourt backhand more consistent to rotating my hips in my golf swing.

ME: I do set goals for myself. Every game, I will try my hardest to score a goal and make a pass to another teammate so he can have a chance to score a goal.

KL: Yes, I do set goals. I used to not be able to do more than one proper pirouette, but as I kept practicing and working towards my goal, I improved gradually and now there is much more improvement.

HP: Who inspires you and how do you inspire yourself?

TC: An obvious selection for any swimmer: Michael Phelps. Nathan Adrian, Missy Franklins, Katinka Hosszu. There are also quite a few people I personally know that are on my swim team that inspire me. Songs: The Fighter, Hall of Fame, I Lived, On Our Way, Changing of the Seasons, Geronimo (my motivational/inspirational songs don’t really have anything to do with the lyrics, just the upbeat-ness of the song). Then there are the motivational quotes, like: “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving.” – Martin Luther King Jr. And finally, cute motivational photos like a rhino running on a treadmill with a unicorn poster posted on the wall.

FF: My friends do!

NS: There is a youtuber named Lily Singh and she is positive and happy and really encourages people to follow their dreams and she is my role model. I get inspired from watching her videos. I inspire myself by thinking if I don’t or do something, what are the negative impacts it could have on my life. Then I can assess if it’s worth it.

ME: I inspire myself by pushing through and knowing there’s no going back.

KL: The song ‘The climb’ by Miley Cyrus. It inspires me to keep going, even when I feel like giving up. I inspire myself by making the right choices and trying to laugh or smile even when I feel down.

HP: What has been your biggest challenge/setback and who or what has helped you overcome it?

TC: Getting through tough sets or doing really badly in a race. But you always have your teammates and (biological) family to get you back on your feet and to turn your frown upside down.

FF: Fear that I will not be able to do something that other people can.

NS: I don’t have one specific thing that has been a challenge, but in the past I had always been the unsporty one, the one who no one passed the ball to or wanted on their team, so I started to just not try and not do any sports because I thought I was bad at all of them. I guess one day I decided – you know what? I don’t like this, and I started participating more and doing more sports.

IT: The biggest challenge I have had to overcome was when my football team was no longer allowed to compete in the league or tournaments. This meant we had no people to play against, and no way of seeing how good we were compared to other girls. I tried to solve this by switching teams. My new team played in all the tournaments, but were not at the same level. The coach had never played football, we were not given a pitch to play on and the other children were not as hardworking. I played on this team a whole year, but then decided that even though my first team was not able to play in matches, they were the team that would make me better.

ME: This year, I was moved up to a league where I was playing with kids at the age of  13-14, whilst I was 10!  I overcame this fear with my coach who told me that there was no turning back and I was a great player worthy of the older team.

KL: My biggest challenge was that I have scoliosis. Scoliosis is spinal curvature and causes tight and aching muscles. My Mom has helped me because she brought me to the doctor, I got checked out and now wear a brace to sleep. I also go to a physiotherapist to practice exercises.

HP: Who has been your most memorable teacher (in your sport/activity) so far and why?

TC: My current coach, because he knows what’s best for me and he pushes me to my very limit. He knows what I’m capable of and when I’m doing a bad job, he pushes me further. It doesn’t matter whether I like him or not, he’s just my coach and I just have to deal with what he tells me, whether that information is harsh and hurtful or motivational and admiring. He is by far a coach who I have respected more than any other.

FF: My most memorable teacher was a coach called Rodney from Multi Sports – he was super helpful!

NS: So far, my most memorable teacher is the one I have now, my netball coach Mrs Fairleigh, because she is so supportive and patient and a great teacher. Every lesson she comes to me and tells me I’m improving.

IT: My football coach Ed. Ed is known by most teams and their players as a mean coach. He shouts at us from the sidelines and gets mad when we lose. Some think that this is because he is not a nice person, but he does it because he knows we are better. At training, he pushes us. He almost pushes us past our limit, but he is kind and cares about our improvement. Then there’s my tennis coach Matt. I started with him about four years ago. He was always nice, but also pushed me. During group lessons, he would be funny but also strict. When he left, I could not think of a replacement coach that I would like as much, but luckily, I did. These two coaches have changes tennis and football for me.

KL: My most memorable teacher is my ballet teacher. She has been teaching me since I was three and now when I dance, she knows enough about me to give good teaching points. Sometimes, she may be strict, but that’s what gets me my good ballet grades.

HP: Imagine that you are totally free from schoolwork and you can choose another sport/activity to do. What would it be and why?

TC: Ballet! It seems like such a complex sport, but it’s such a graceful and beautiful sport to watch. It looks extremely difficult, but it contains so much elegance and beauty.

FF: I would spend more time on gymnastics because it’s so much and I would love to have hours and hours of lessons!

NS: I would swim because I really love the water and the feeling of freedom I get when I am in it.

IT: At the moment, I am doing all of the sports I want to play. If I could choose another, I would chose to play more hours of the sports I play now.

ME: I would say American football, because it is a popular sport. I’ve seen it on TV and it seems really fun and interesting

KL: I would choose modern dance because it looks a bit like ballet – very elegant and smooth.

HP: What do you always say YES! to? It can be anything 🙂


FF: Any theatre show that comes to town 🙂

NS: I always say yes to hanging out with friends and going to my favorite place in the world a summer camp called Songadeewin.

IT: I always say yes to a macaroon. You said anything 😉 Something I will always say yes to is a competition. Competition helps to show improvement and skill, and focus.

ME: I always say yes to more ice hockey playing time!

KL: I always say YES! to food.

Flex would like to extend a huge thanks to Hope Patterson for conducting these interviews and to each of our fabulous teen participants.





FlexTeens Open Day

Saturday 31st January –  Try out our sample classes for Yoga, Flying Pilates, and FlexTeens Pilates classes – for more information e-mail –

FlexTeens Winter Program 2015

From Teen Yoga to Flying Pilates, Flex has one of HK’s most comprehensive fitness programs for teens. We help teens and tweens gain confidence in their growing bodies, move intelligently and educate them about physical fitness for life.  With a range of classes including Pilates, Aerial Arts and Yoga, we make fitness fun!

View Teen program details and schedule

Nutrition for Teens – The Dirty Truth about Food

Saturday 17 January – This workshop will help teens learn the truth about hidden fats and chemicals in their food and empower them to make smarter choices at lunchtime- they’ll never look at the school cafeteria the same way.  parents, helpers and children welcome.

Click here for more information


close slider

Contact us on WhatsApp: +852 5740 9420 or fill up the enquiry form below.


Enquiry Form