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From Athlete to Teacher—Mr. Daniel C.W. Lee

Mr. Daniel C.W. Lee
Assistant Lecturer, Department of Sports Science and Physical Education
(Photo by Cheung Chi-wai)

You finished the 10 km run of the Standard Chartered Marathon in 33 minutes 18 seconds, two minutes slower than the record you set. Are you satisfied?

It’s acceptable. The result was better than I expected given that I was not very well prepared.

Does an athlete-turned teacher have any advantages or disadvantages?

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a good athlete because you have to make regular breakthroughs in terms of competition results and physical limits. Equipped with such characteristics and attitude, I think an athlete can do other jobs equally well. You’ll try hard to keep improving yourself, regardless of the job you do. Now that my work is related to sports, I think it’s an advantage to have an athlete background.

Have you mastered the secrets to teaching?

One of my class starts at 8:30 am on Mondays. Getting the attention of students so early in the morning is a big challenge. Getting them to turn up for class is half the success. The other half lies in preparing well for the lecture. I’ll put a lot of pictures and video clips in my teaching material and make connections between the content and their daily life.

You became a professional athlete as soon as you graduated from CUHK. What brought about that decision?

When I was an undergraduate student at CUHK, I had long received triathlon training. I wanted to achieve more as a triathlete, so I chose to become a professional athlete upon graduation. I was young and impulsive. I didn’t think much about long-term questions such as job security or stability.

In retrospect, was it worthwhile?

Very much so. Some of my classmates also work at CUHK now. We’ve reached the same destination through different paths. But by choosing to become an athlete, I was able to see a different world. This is an experience that not everyone can get.

Which competitions have been the most unforgettable?

Competitions are unforgettable in two ways: very good or very bad. My very good ones include the 2007 Triathlon World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. I finished 16th. Although I didn’t bring home any medals, I felt that my training paid off and I performed very well. I was the highestranked Asian participant in the event. Of course, the big games in which I won medals are also unforgettable, such as the 2006 Asian Games, the 2008 Asian Beach Games, and the 2009 National Games of China. But I also have bad experiences. One of them was the 2005 National Games.

I was injured a few months before the event. But I was Hong Kong’s medal hopeful, so I had no choice but to keep training and participate in the event. The result was not good at all.

Did you have difficulty changing careers after 11 years of being a professional athlete?

It wasn’t too difficult. I retired as an athlete in April 2011 and came to CUHK in August 2012. In between there was a stage of uncertainty and I was seeking direction in life. Before I came to CUHK, I worked in a big cycling shop. I believe that as long as you are willing to try, you always get opportunities.

If your students want to become professional athletes, what would you say to them?

I would give them an objective analysis based on my experience, psychologically preparing them for what would be expected of them if they became professional athletes. I would also encourage them by my own example which isn’t bad. Hong Kong athletes are treated better now than in my days.

What if your daughter wants to be an athlete?

Professional athletes require exceptional physical fitness. Not everyone’s cut out for it. If my daughter has the physical and mental ability for it, I would give her my full support.

How do you stay in shape for sport competitions when you don’t train as intensively as before?

I don’t follow a systematic regime. I go cycling mostly. As I have a full-time job, sports no longer take priority. When I take part in competitions, results are not my major concern. My main goal is to enjoy the event and the atmosphere.