[READ] Harvard Grad Cheng Ho Wants to Fix Taiwan’s High School Sports

You can read my new article for NBC News here.

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I grew up in Markham, one of Toronto’s most ethnic suburban sprawls, where I felt I could be anything I wanted, even as a woman of colour and first generation immigrant to Canada. (As a kid, I wanted to be a Baby-Sitters Club novelist and an Olympic swimmer.)

At my first competitive swim meet in 4th grade, I lapped everyone in my freestyle heat and climbed out of the pool with wobbly legs looking for my mom. She wasn’t in the crowd, but she was prompt at dropping us off and picking us up. (There was 4 of us doing extracurriculars, so my mom was the OG Uber driver.) Don’t worry, she showed up for all of my lifeguard and swim instructor exams.

In the Winter, my cousins and I took skating lessons. In our first lesson, we learned how to glide and eventually learned how to skate backwards. We bought helmets and skates from Canadian Tire. In 5th grade, I learned how to ski and snowboard – and fractured my wrist on a boarding trip.

After homework and dinner, we played basketball on our driveway – coming up with silly words to replace H-O-R-S-E. We moved hockey nets onto the street to play street hockey. We threw baseballs against our garage door and even tried to throw them onto the roof on purpose. We kicked around soccer balls, as high and far as we could – so much so our next door neighbour put up a fence to protect her grass. (The fence is still up after 25 years!) We biked down steep hills and skateboarded on bumpy pavement, pretending like it was the X Games.

In high school, I played basketball – learning about camaraderie and experiencing direct racism. For a team that only had one “white” person, we got heckled a lot. We were the underdogs, losing most of our games, until we kicked ass and won the championship game.

In grade 11, I chose PE as an elective. Our teacher, Ms. Williams, the track coach for Canadian Olympian Andre Degrasse, took us canoeing and was the best example of a female athlete. (You can partially thank her for those Usain Bolt/Degrasse memes.)

So what is the point of this listicle of my childhood sports experiences? I’m excited to be working on an article about Choxue, a Taiwanese startup trying to integrate sports with education here. Asians get good grades, but we can be excellent athletes too.

(Photo by: Amy Chyan)

And if you’re wondering, this panel of investors has the biggest heart for Taiwan – all former athletes, from Berkeley, Yale and Harvard. L-R: Richard Chang SVP Costco Asia, Joe Tsai VP Alibaba, Cheng Ho Choxue CEO, Blackie Chen former national player and now celebrity who has 20 million followers on Weibo and Jimmy Chang, who brings all the NBA players to Asia in the Summer.

There’s something endearing about Taiwan. We are always the underdog, the most “started from the bottom” and this time it’s no different.

Meet you at the top. 👑

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