People Stories

Sports & Culture

Sports for the blind blaze new beginnings

Choy King Yu, 77, has a degenerative eye condition. However, that has not stopped him trying out a different activity every week post-retirement: cycling, darts, bowling, golfing, and the list goes on. More than 30 years ago, Choy was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes vision impairment and eventual blindness. Over time, his eyesight had continued to fade. But he has managed to keep his spirits up and been making many new friends, all thanks to sports.

“I used to be an introvert and rarely talked to other people,” Choy said. “But I’ve made many friends since I joined the Hong Kong Blind Sports Federation. We’d always go for dim sum after a bowling game.” With the funding support of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Hong Kong Blind Sports Federation started the Jockey Club Light up Sports Programme, which provides training in marathon, bowling, golf and tandem cycling to the visually impaired, benefitting both their physical and social well-being.

According to government statistics, there are at least 174,800 visually impaired persons in Hong Kong. They rarely go out for sports because of a lack of support from sighted persons. On top of the discrimination and prejudice they face, it is also hard for them to get sports gear or information on activities. Over the years, the Hong Kong Blind Sports Federation has worked tirelessly to help people with eye diseases take part in suitable sports.

The association says sports can help the visually impaired overcome their fears and insecurities and regain confidence in their body.

Like most visually impaired persons, Choy did not have a habit of doing sports. That changed when he took up bowling. In the beginning, he could not see clearly what was in front of him and kept rolling gutter balls. But with weekly practice in the past few years, coupled with the patient coaching of his instructor, he is now a skilled bowling player. "When I started bowling strikes, it was a great feeling," Choy said, barely hiding his excitement. Besides providing sports activities, the Hong Kong Blind Sports Federation promotes public understanding of the visually impaired and pushes for social integration through various initiatives including regular school talks.

Did you know?

With the right assistance and support, blind people can become professional athletes. Over the past 10 years, the Hong Kong Blind Sports Federation has trained over 500 visually impaired athletes, including the well-known visually impaired runner, Gary Leung Siu Wai. Leung was the first visually impaired athlete in the world to complete both the North Pole and Antarctic marathons. In addition, the association has trained the visually impaired golfer Wong Mei Ling, who represented Hong Kong in international competitions.