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Beach clean-ups, Spanish lessons and at-home workouts

Originally "Beach clean-ups, Spanish lessons and at-home workouts: Kowloon rugby players keep busy and fit during pandemic" by Patrick Blennerhassett, South China Morning Post, Sep 19th 2020

For Victoria Wong Ching-hei, not being able to play rugby since February has given her some extra free time.

Wong, who works as an aircraft mechanic and plays fly-half for the DAC Management LLC Kowloon Rugby Club premiership squad, headed out to Sai Kung to put her spare time to good use.

“I have seen the huge amount of trash that is dumped in our oceans and washed ashore every day,” said Wong, who is the squad’s captain and has been playing rugby for nearly a decade.

“So some teammates and I followed a local group and went on a beach clean-up the other day and picked up 91 bags of trash. It was only a fraction of the total amount of trash, mostly plastic in our waters.” Victoria Wong Ching-hei said staying fit during the virus has been challenging, but has also presented opportunities.

With rugby expected to return November 7, Wong said the goal is to organise more clean-ups before season kicks off.

“Since then, my friends and I have been trying to coordinate more clean-ups, raising awareness and changing our lifestyle bit by bit, hoping to do more for our home and our environment. It doesn’t take much, one tiny step such as refusing single use cutlery is already helping.” Rugby players all over Hong Kong have found themselves without their favourite pastime since the pandemic forced the closure of rugby pitches and fields across the city. Wong said she has also taken up other activities to keep in shape, including hiking, stream climbing and kayaking. Gyms only reopened on September 4 and Wong’s new teammate, Gabriela Przygodzki, who joined the squad at the end of last season, said keeping fit has been a challenge, but she is making it work. “Keeping motivated without having regular training or games is very hard,” said Przygodzki, who plays as a prop and was born in Hong Kong. “I work as a teaching assistant at a school so we were supporting students via an online platform, which was a whole other challenge. At the start of social distancing I found it hard to find other alternatives to rugby to keep my cardiovascular fitness up, as well as my strength, but knowing that the season would start eventually kept me focused and disciplined.” Przygodzki, who has been playing rugby since the age of nine, said she adjusted her routine, working on cardio in the morning and strength work plus high-intensity workouts in the afternoons after her online teaching is finished. She said after a while the restrictions meant she actually had more time to train and work on her fitness, which was a blessing in disguise. “Now with the season around the corner and a potential start date, I am more motivated than ever to return to playing, so my focus has been on improving cardiovascular fitness, whilst maintaining muscle and ensuring I’m fuelling my body with the right foods.” For some, the lack of rugby has allowed for a chance to pick up some new hobbies. Kowloon teammate Rosanna Down, who has been playing rugby for more than 10 years and works as a part-time gymnastics coach, said the pandemic allowed her to expand her skill set. “Being finished with school and on a gap year, and not being able to coach, I have even more free time,” said Down. “I’ve been trying to learn new things, such as Spanish and cooking.” Down said she is ready to play again before heading off to Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. “I have another year in Hong Kong and since the season is coming closer I’ve been wanting to try to make this my best season with Kowloon before leaving for university. So I’ve been using that as motivation to stay fit and follow the training programmes to my best ability,” she said.


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