• 4-time Hong Kong National Age Group Record Holder (3 times in the 15-17 age group Short Course 200m Butterfly, 1 time in the 10 and under 100m Backstroke)
  • Best in Hong Kong for IGCSE Information and Communication Technology, achieved results of 10 A*s and 1A out of 11 subjects.
  • Represented both Hong Kong and Singapore in swimming at the age group level
  • Finalist for the Grand Prize for the 2017-18 South China Morning Post Student of the Year awards
  • 7-time HKSSF Interschool Division 3 swimming champion and recipient of the 2015-16 Watsons Student Sports Award

I always dreamed of being able to form the perfect dumpling. Seeing my mother effortlessly churn out rows upon rows of plump morsels made me green with envy, almost greener than the Chinese chives in the filling. Needless to say, the 8-year-old me toiled away endlessly, deftly twisting and contorting the frail skin around the ruby filling with the precision of an origami master, painstakingly plaiting the edges. All of them were obviously far from perfect (what can a child hope for?). Dusting off my floury hands, I sighed.

Everyone says life is never smooth sailing. You are bound to encounter obstacles on your pathway to success, they say. You are going to fail sometimes, and it is fine, they say. Indeed true, but where are we sailing to eventually? Is there a utopian society awaiting us upon completion of all challenges, like all cliché multiplayer games?

Needless to say, being a student in the pressure-cooker society that is Hong Kong, I have pretty obvious goals. Get a great IB score! Get into a good university! Make friends! Be the best version of myself! The general goal of self-improvement is the primary reason why I drag myself to the pool 9 times a week in pursuit of becoming the best Peter Lee. 5am-alarms are sometimes the bane of my existence, and there are days when I question the sacrifice of my rest for sport. Indeed, toiling away with strenuous workouts does get mundane and sometimes all you want to do is hang onto the lane rope and drift away, but the hours spent immersed in chlorinated water does pay off. Being fortunate enough to represent both Hong Kong and Singapore in swimming, the sport has given me so much in reward for my efforts over the years, whether it is age group records, championship medals or most importantly friendships.

With my proud heritage, my academics matter as much, if not more. Some say being a student-athlete is like being on a seesaw, whereas I like to see it as being on a unicycle while juggling flaming knives. It is a tough endeavor. Getting home at 8pm after rushing from the pool to school and back to the pool, usually all I want to do is flop onto my bed. In my state of mental and physical exhaustion, putting in any effort to study requires immense effort and fortitude, which is a struggle I deal with daily. Time is of the essence when you basically have two and a half hours a day to study, especially with the demanding IB program. With the support of my teachers and friends who are always willing to help me through WhatsApp, any content I am unsure of is clarified in an instant. Striking a balance between study and sport has taken years of trial and error to perfect, and has culminated in my ability to achieve high grades throughout secondary school life, including 10 A*s at IGCSE level and a perfect predicted grade at IB level.

Apart from such ambitious goals, I never neglect the importance of some minor aspirations of mine. Make the perfect lasagna. Perfect the timing of my butterfly stroke. Drink more water. I could go on. My smaller sidesteps on the long winding journey to ‘success’, or my interpretation of it, allows me to enjoy the process, focusing on different aspects of myself that sometimes are overlooked.

I cannot be the perfect being who effortlessly accomplishes everything with both panache and a smile, but I can try. Everyone says if you never try, you never know and never has a single phrase resonated as strongly with me. Being the clumsiest and most uncoordinated teenager there is, I was terrified when asked to model for a charity fashion show. No matter how stiff or confused I looked on the runway, I finished it. Competing at a major meet following 10 days out of the water? Check. Twisting my ankle before an international race, then going a best time? Check. Finishing an art assignment in a day? Check (would not recommend). I thrive on challenges and unexpected turns – they fuel my enthusiasm and vigor to live to my fullest potential. Resilience is a quality that is cultivated, not created and in the process of my struggles as both a student and an athlete throughout the years, my mental fortitude has gone through serious testing. That is another reason why challenges excite me – you strengthen yourself in multiple ways and your weaknesses are usually laid bare.

I picked up the next wrapper from the stack, dotted the edges with water, spooned out the filling, and started again.

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