Glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze made for a beautiful day. There was a substantial turn-out of supporters: the Master and Mrs Young, the Dean of Students, and a group of staff members and students from the College arrived early in the morning. An exchange student from Sweden came to cheer, and most touching of all, a former exchange student came back to Hong Kong from Thailand just for that weekend, with no other purpose than to be with his mates.
The Women's Team competed first. The four refined and graceful ladies showed their strength on that day. Through intensive training over the past few months, the girls had learnt the importance of moving exactly to the same beat, whether pushing on the oars during the recovery phase or propelling the boat during the drive phase, whether dipping the oars into water at the catch or bringing them out at the end of the stroke. They did not make the finals, but put in a very credible showing; they gained experience and learnt about perseverance, teamwork and collaboration.
'We just want to get into the finals, to compete with the strongest teams,' said one member of the Men's Team, minutes before the starting gun. All eight rowers were in high spirits and pledged to do their best. They had worked hard during the four months of strenuous training. Under the instruction of volunteer coaches, the Men's Team had practiced for over six hours per day during the six weeks before the competition.
Aside from of the land training with weights and with the indoor rowing machines, they also kept practicing the balancing skills needed for on-water racing. From dawn till dusk they had trained; their rowing skills were honed, their tenacity improved, and they came together as a team in unison. The Men's Team finished second in the heat — much ahead of the third boat — and made it into the finals. Members of the cheering team on-the-spot were so excited that they could not help shouting: 'Good job, boys!' The rivals were much stronger in the finals. As a result, they finished in fifth place, a result that made all staff and students proud: with only 150 students to draw from (compared to nearly 3,000 for the larger colleges), our teams had done extremely and surprisingly well. Their sweat during the training sessions on the Shing Mun River has turned into beautiful memories.
The organizers had asked all the College heads and masters for a few words in the event pamphlet. Since most first year students had just finished studying the Odyssey, Professor Young decided to give them a quote from Ulysses by Tennyson:
'Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; ...
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'
It turned out to be a fitting tribute to the team.
Reflections of Rowing Team members
David Fu, Member of Men's Rowing Team
The four-month training had really been a tough time for me. That's why I once considered pulling out of the competition. But I gritted my teeth and eventually made it, after seeing the unconditional contributions made by the coaches and the great perseverance shown by my teammates. We were so glad that we were much ahead of even the third boat and conceded only to one team in the heat. The most unforgettable moment came when I heard that 'CW Chu College is so formidable' murmured by someone amid thunderous applause when we went ashore. At that moment, I found that everything we had done was rewarded.
As expected, rivals from the large colleges beat us in the finals. We refused to give up but rowed hard to catch up, even though on one occasion the oars collided. We had no regrets, even though we were only fifth. We definitely would not be able to reach the finals, had we not persisted. As a matter of fact, we were behind our rivals in terms of our size and physical strength. Our team, however, had better collaboration and mutual understanding, advantages rooted in the common life we share in the College.
Shelagh Li, Member of Women's Rowing Team
Coming into CUHK from spending my whole life studying abroad in Thailand, I had a hard time adjusting and starting over again in a new environment. Rowing was one of those spontaneous activities in which I acted upon a sudden urge; in the end I benefited more than I could have ever imagined. I didn't even know it was a proper sport until I got to university. However, through hours, days, and weeks of missed communal dining, sweat, and frustration, the three other girls and I slowly became a team.
Honestly, everything we are, we need to attribute to our amazing coaches Wyman and Alan, who had given up their own precious time and taught us all that we know. Eventually, with four of us starting from zero, we were able to row in perfect synchronization. When we started to work together as one team and not as four different individuals, our relationships inevitably got closer as well. Though we were deeply disappointed with how we placed on competition day, I feel that all the hard work wasn't wasted. We achieved our goal of taking out a girls' boat in the name of CW Chu, and did better than we ever expected in the beginning.
We are so proud of our boys and how far they've come as well. Our two teams would always encourage and push each other to constantly improve, to never stop till we have done the best we could. When the boys got into finals, all four of us were screaming and cheering our hearts out for them. Though we had a bittersweet ending to the season, I do not regret it one bit. The memories have made this season worth every moment.