Vicki Chi is a former competitive swimmer in China and current underwater hockey player, who just competed with Hong Kong at the China Cup in Hangzhou at the end of May. She is a single mother to a 4 year-old daughter — who is also a good swimmer and who joins her at underwater hockey trainings on Saturdays. Vicki arrived in HK in 2014 by way of Netherlands where she had lived since she was 17 years old.
Vicki discovered underwater hockey a year ago and immediately fell in love with the sport. At the time she was looking for a swimming team / association to join in order to improve her swim training. Now, she’s a regular player with the Hong Kong Underwater Hockey Association and her teammates have even gotten her into free diving! Participating in underwater hockey has truly expanded her underwater horizon 🙂 Not only that, when Vicki travels to Netherlands for work, she has since found a team in Haarlem that she can play with, thus expanding her community of friendships.
Vicki enjoys the dynamics of the stock market and always seek new challenges in life. By day, Vicki is an Asia Pacific Equities Portfolio Manager at Robeco Hong Kong, the largest independent asset manager in the Netherlands and part of Tokyo based Orix group. She is a Certified Financial Analyst charter holder with a master degree in international business administration.
How did you first get into underwater hockey? What about the sport led you to keep going back to practices and games?
I came across underwater hockey through meetup.com, when I was trying to find a swimming team to join. Ever since I arrived in HK for work in 2014 I have been
swimming, but last year I wanted to challenge myself more. I fell in love with underwater hockey after the first try. The adrenaline rush during the games gives me such a high! I had never really played a team sport in my life as swimming is a solo sport; underwater hockey is a true team sport and it is awesome to win a game together! I like the aspect of working in a team to work towards a goal, such as trying to win. I wish we can have more frequent trainings than the 1-2 times a week that we have now, and I wish we can get access to better pools than the school pools we rent now.
When you first started to play underwater hockey, what were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
As a former swimmer, I move at ease underwater, can hold my breath for a good while and I am in excellent physical condition. But underwater hockey is so much more than just swimming. Although I had a foundation, I really had to learn a new sport. The key techniques such as being stationary underwater with my lower body on the bottom of the pool and upper body straight up, making turns while protecting the puck, using the various ways to handle the puck with the hockey stick, and flicking the puck etc. requires much training and practice. I also found the aspect of learning how to play as a team challenging as I didn’t have to do this as a solo swimmer, but it is so much fun to learn and to improve and to become a better teammate. I have not perfected my skills with only 1 year of playing underwater hockey, but I have no intention to ever stop playing this sport, so I will keep learning and practicing.
What do you like about water sports versus field sports?
I don’t feel myself sweating…that’s great! And we play with masks and fins…it looks super cool! Most importantly, that sense of freedom when I sink down the pool…absolutely amazing feeling. Maybe that’s why I am also expanding into free diving now, which my teammates introduced me to.
What impact has playing underwater water had on your personal and professional life? What have been some of the biggest takeaways from playing this sport?
I think playing underwater hockey first and foremost gave me a better understanding of myself. It showed me the passion I can have for a sport that I didn’t know I could have. When I travelled back to the Netherlands and played with the team in Haarlem, I saw people playing the game for 30-40 years and are still playing after retirement. That’s the kind of passion I also have for underwater hockey and it is great to love something so fervently. Also it makes me think of group dynamics at a different level beyond any team building session I’ve ever had.
What are you thinking about when you’re swimming underwater and competing / fighting to get to the puck before your opponents?
My instinct is always to go for the puck and push it into the goal…fast! But now I try to think more, use the skills I learnt, apply some tactics, look around when I have the puck… and recognizing that giving it to a team mate may be better than going straight for the goal myself. I’m really learning how to play in a team, and as a teammate. Also when I am playing against highly experienced opponents, I need to deal with my fear. I have only played for one year, so there is that little fear at the back of my mind that always makes me give up too early against a stronger/better player. I need to be strong mentally to perform at my best level. Going to practices and competing gives me more opportunities to learn to become mentally stronger.
You bring your daughter with you to underwater hockey practice. Why do you bring her to practices?
My daughter Alex is 4 years old now. I’ve been taking her to the swimming pool and the beach consistently since she was 6 months old. Now she can thoroughly enjoy the sea and the pool and she loves to join me at underwater hockey training on Saturday mornings. It is so nice to be able to show her what I love and have her support. She tells me: mommy I want to play hockey too … and shows me how good she is at diving. I would say it doesn’t get better than sharing the fun of sports together with the little one.
Underwater hockey is a relatively new sport to Hong Kong and it might seem daunting to many who’ve never tried it before to have to hold one’s breath and swim underwater for long periods of time. What words of advice do you have for someone who might want to try it for the first time?
From what I have seen and my own experience, you either love the sport or you don’t. It usually doesn’t take more than two trainings for one to find out. Anyone who can swim can play this game. Advanced players will hold your hand for your first session and you WILL be playing in the game! If for any reason you don’t like underwater hockey, I’d say go find some sport you do feel passionate about and don’t stop trying new things till you find your passion.
Having said that, many players in our team are not advanced swimmers/divers, but they feel just as passionately about underwater hockey as I do. We’re all playing because we love this game and we are all improving from our current levels. When we play as a team we try to utilize and maximize each of our strength, and that is the beauty of it.
Unlike most other places and unique to Hong Kong, we have more girls than guys in our team…I am so proud to belong to this loving group of awesome people.
For a better idea of what underwater hockey looks like: