Photo by Liberty Simons
By Beth McCowen
In light of lacrosse being named as an Olympic sport for Los Angeles 2028, The Orbital sat down with player Kellie Cheung to talk about her personal journey with the sport, what this news means for the lacrosse community, as well as her time competing with Royal Holloway.
Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey with lacrosse?
“I came to the UK when I was 12 and attended boarding school, and that’s where I started to play lacrosse. I actually started as a goalie in high school, then at university I was midfield attack. After my year abroad, I joined Hong Kong Lacrosse, so I would play with Hong Kong during the summers. I would coach beginner’s adult and children’s lacrosse. Also, during my year abroad, I played for Madrid Lacrosse Club and had the opportunity to play with their national team.”
What has been your proudest moment as a lacrosse player?
“When I first trained with Hong Kong Lacrosse, I think that was the moment I thought ‘Oh my God, wow!’ Hong Kong takes lacrosse quite seriously. They put a lot of money into it. They have their own office, their own gym, and that was a moment I thought lacrosse was getting quite serious. That was 2020, so that was when I think they first announced lacrosse potentially being in the Olympics for 2028. So, you were already training for the sixes format. That was, I guess, the moment it just kind of just showed me how popular the sport might become.”
How big is the news regarding the 2028 Olympics in LA for lacrosse?
“It’s a great achievement for all lacrosse clubs around the world. As a lacrosse player myself, I feel quite proud that it’s something I’m very passionate about. Finally, the world gets to see how unique this sport is. I mean, lacrosse I think was featured as a demonstration sport in three different Olympics, but that’s not a huge thing. This seems like it’s going to be quite official even though it’s only sixes, which is obviously a more compact version of tens. Still, I think it’ll be a good opportunity for everyone to see how great the sport is.”
Can you explain how the version of lacrosse which will be played at the Olympics is different to the version many people might be more familiar with?
“The sixes format is a more fast-paced, compact version of lacrosse. Rather than ten, there are six players on each team, including the goalkeeper. It’s slightly different, and the pitch is smaller, the length of the game is shorter (so that’s 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes). There are no specialist positions, like no defence, no midfield, no attack, everyone just kind of goes anywhere. There are only draws at the beginning of each quarter, so once a goal has been scored, the goalie clears the ball. It’s continuous and there’s a shot clock, so you have to shoot a goal within 30 seconds. I think players have to be even more physically fit. It’s very different for sixes, but I think it’s a good trait if more clubs practise this format. It would be good fitness training and stick skills. You can pass the ball quicker, shoot the ball quicker, and I think generally it’s quite a good way to improve lacrosse skills.”
What would you like to see this development achieve for the game, and what sort of impact do you think it will have?
“In terms of it being part of the Olympics, I feel like lacrosse in general might get more funding. Lacrosse in the U.S.A is so big. All the famous lacrosse players that we know are from there, and I think lacrosse being more popular and more well known, will help other countries’ lacrosse clubs. Giving them more resources, more equipment, or training more people as coaches will strengthen the backbone of it for other countries. More funding! More funding is the most important thing, I think.”
Finally, what did lacrosse at Royal Holloway mean to you?
“Lacrosse at Royal Holloway, I would say was my highlight of all of it. I felt like I was doing a degree in lacrosse! I had the opportunity to be president in my second year, and then also team captain for the mixed firsts in my final year, so that to me was a great turning point because I learned so much about myself. I led such a big team, we had over 100 members at one point. I discovered myself as well as found my passion, and also turned that passion into something greater. I just learned so much from lacrosse and met a lot of amazing people. The community is just amazing, sometimes I can’t even describe how amazing it is. I think that really sums up my experience playing lacrosse at Holloway and just seeing the club grow. It was already a pretty big club when I joined, but I had many ideas on how to improve it. Before me, the president of the club was a guy, and then for some reason after me they were all girls. This was interesting and I feel like this is a positive change because it used to be quite full of masculine energy, lots of drinking, but now I think there is a great balance.”