Welcome to the Spotlight series by TMS, where we highlight businesses and people around Hong Kong making waves. This week, we’re speaking with Tiffany Yue, a pro long jumper from Hong Kong.
In the realm of track and field, the long jump is quite the athletic endeavor, demanding a harmonious fusion of speed, strength and agility. Athletes, driven by years of training and unwavering determination, strive to achieve the furthest leap possible. This athletic spectacle, alongside the triple jump, collectively falls under the category of "horizontal jumps," measuring the distance an athlete can cover in a single bound.
The long jump boasts a storied lineage, going back to the archives of the ancient Olympic games, where athletes first showcased their prowess in the sport. In modern sports history, the long jump has maintained its distinction, serving as a cornerstone of the Olympic Games. Since its inaugural inclusion in the Olympics of 1896 for men and its subsequent inclusion for women in 1948, this event has continued to captivate audiences with its blend of physical prowess and technical finesse.
Hong Kong’s Tiffany Yue is one athlete specializing in this sport. She met up with the team at TMS to talk about her training and her determination to break her personal bests.
Never gonna be a long jumper
Yue’s athletic career didn't start with long jumping, and she actually never intended to become a professional long jumper. Her athletic career started with sprinting, while she occasionally dabbled with long jumping and hurdling on the side. At the age of 18, she set her own personal best record, jumping 5.90 meters. Realizing this was very close to the Hong Kong junior records, she decided it was time for a specialty change. “I just decided, ‘Oh, it seems like I do have probably a lot of talent in long jumping than in sprinting,” she says.
The only real reason why she even started long jumping in the first place was because it was a necessary rule during her school sports day – two track events, one field event. As her coach explained to her, long jumping was what track athletes would typically choose. “That PB (personal best) that I had, it was at a sports day,” she recalls. “At first, I was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to break the sports day record, and that’s it, but then, my coach was like, ‘You can do better; keep going, keep going.’” Do better, she did, as her efforts led her to break the Hong Kong record eventually.
“Teachers, especially in primary school, aren't really that supporting of kids being in a sports team. They usually see us as the troublemakers,” Yue says, adding, “I’m a good kid!” She admits that she was never even into sports in the first place. She accidentally broke a record during a sports day and was invited back to join the team. Actually, she was interested in singing and had tried out and been accepted into the choir team shortly before. But, school rules dictated that the students could only take one extracurricular activity. Because of holiday schedules, Yue picked athletics.
When asked if she feels that athletic talent comes through hard work or natural talent, Yue replies, “I think you really have to be somewhat gifted, and then hard work comes, and then the result comes.” As for her own superpowers? “I have really good explosive power,” she says. “So it’s really the thing for me. As a sprinter or a long jumper, that gift in sprinting and just anything explosive and short.”
It was her competition in Lisbon, Portugal, at Memorial Moniz Pereira, where she set her latest Hong Kong record at 6.49 meters. Yue expresses gratitude for the change of location for her remarkable performance. “I personally didn’t do anything special that time,” she tells TMS. “It was just in me that whole time. I just needed the opportunity to get out of the places I am familiar with after being locked in the institute and Hong Kong for 2.5 years and have myself freshen up.” They stayed in Lagos for three months, and she loved the ambience of the area, with little businesses peppered around the town and being only about 10 minutes away from the beach.
“It made me understand that there is a lot more outside of Hong Kong, and there is that whole world of athletes who are doing their best,” she says when talking about her first time representing Hong Kong internationally. She admits to being quite shocked the first time she recognized this. “You realize there is a whole big world outside,” she continues. But the realization didn't deter her; it made her want to try even harder. “It also made me believe that, even though we are Asian, we still have the potential to go international, and we can compete with the big sports stars,” she says. “Some of the top athletes in Asia can already be competitive with them, so we can also be that one day.”
Yue constantly pushes herself. As an athlete, it’s essential to stay motivated physically, mentally and emotionally. She tells us how she keeps herself going. “The belief that I haven't reached my full potential. I always want to know how far I can jump, and I know that I haven't reached my own personal maximum yet.” It’s always about pushing yourself further in athletics, which is why athletes love what they do, she explains.
Looking to the future
In her many years of training, Yue has luckily managed to avoid major injuries. But, after she competed in Lisbon, she suffered one while training in Switzerland. Unfortunately, she was forced to finish her season early because she couldn’t get proper treatment overseas and wasn’t familiar with overseas medical systems. “I had to contact physios I know from Hong Kong and do some self-evaluation tests to figure out what’s wrong with my calf and do everything I can without proper immediate treatment,” she told us. It was a challenging time for Yue, and once she was back in Hong Kong, she needed to undergo rehabilitation every day during what was meant to be her holiday period.
Although the injury was inconvenient, she realized she had a lucky scrape. “It was pretty clear to me that I am lucky enough to have made the right call when it happened, so the injury wasn’t too severe that it would damage my career,” she says. She mentions that in the world of athletics, the injury wasn’t the worst, and it wasn't severe enough to prevent her from achieving bigger and better results in the future.
Like many athletes, Yue is very much aware of life after her peak athletic career. She admits that she doesn't think that coaching would be for her because she recognizes the responsibility of being a coach. From mental health to recovery methods to dietary changes, a coach needs to know a lot about many health topics to guide an athlete on the right track to achieve their best. “I actually studied fitness and nutritional science for my bachelor's, and I’m thinking about maybe taking on dietitian for masters or physiotherapy,” she says.
When asked if she has a message of encouragement or inspiration for others, she looks up thoughtfully. “Don’t be afraid to dream big because you have to have a goal – a really big goal. Or, you can start with a really small one. Don't be afraid to feel like you won't be able to do better because you can always do better, and you won't know if you can do it if you never try,” Yue says. “Do not deny yourself before you start it … Be brave and try it.”