Hong Kong's Jessica Ho will stop at nothing for Olympic glory

Photo credit: May James Photography 

 

Over a month on from running out of the tunnel at the Hong Kong Stadium, the roller-coaster of emotions scrumhalf Jessica Ho experienced on the day still lingers fresh on her mind. 

 

"Obviously there were the nerves, just like any game, but to run out and hear your home crowd cheering for you and your team was pretty surreal," she said. 

 

"There's an absolute buzz about the crowd and it gives you such an energy boost hearing and feeling that from them."

 

On her Hong Kong Sevens debut, her leadership qualities in USRC Tigers' colours truly came to the fore, as a collective team effort saw the Women's squad claim a place in Day 2 of the Hong Kong Sevens Qualifiers for the first time. 

 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union 

 

"Playing at the Hong Kong Sevens, and in particular in the Hong Kong stadium, was an absolute dream come true for me." said the 27-year-old. 

 

"It's been something I've wanted to do since I was 15, so to do it and achieve some great performances alongside that was amazing."

 

Despite her age, she is already viewed as a mentor by emerging group of girls at the USRC Tigers, who have consolidated their status as a factory of talent by contributing the most players to the 2019 Hong Kong Sevens squad of any club. 

 

"I think it's really powerful for younger and less experienced players to have national players to look up to in the club and see what it takes to be part of an international squad." Ho said.

 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union 

 

"Before I earned my first cap, I had players like Lindsay Varty, Natasha Olson Thorne, Nam Ka-man all playing for Tigers and I could look at them and see the dedication and hard work they put into their craft to get them where they were and it inspires you to follow in those footsteps."

 

But to Ho, the most important aspect of the sport is the sense of community it brings to her club.

 

"I think we've become a really tight knit group of women who not only play rugby together but are actually friends." Ho said.

 

"We come from so many different backgrounds and occupations and cultures but we all come together at Tigers and have a common purpose."

 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union 

 

Taking the year by storm by clinching the Grand Championship in March for the first time in 18 years and her Sevens debut, Ho's aspirations are only growing larger.

 

At club level, Ho and her teammates plan to build from what they achieved this year.

 

"We proved to ourselves and all the teams in Hong Kong that we are capable of winning the Grand Championships, so for us it'll be about having a consistent year and going for the double and winning the league as well." Ho said.

 

"We are a club that grows so we want to continue to develop our younger talent and encourage young players to join Tigers too."

 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union  

 

For the Hong Kong team however, Ho is going into two XV test matches in Fiji against Fiji and Samoa, in addition to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualification tournament in November.

 

"Our aim is to come away with two wins. It'll really test our physicality as a team playing against two teams who are likely much bigger than us. As a small player myself, that's a big point for me and I always get stuck in no matter what the size difference." Ho said.

 

"In November, we will compete for a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I think most athletes dream of competing at the Olympics so we are all working incredibly hard to be the best we can be for that qualifying tournament."

 

One thing is for certain - 2019 has already cemented its place as a period in Ho's career she will never forget. 

 

"[Being in the Hong Kong Stadium] I definitely had a moment of just looking around and taking that one second to be incredibly grateful of what rugby has given me in that moment."

 

 

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