Mandarin-speaking St. Mark’s Student Ready for China

Hilton Sampson overcomes leg injury, prepares for competition

St. Mark’s School of Texas’ Hilton Sampson is headed to China this fall to show off his skills with a triple-bearing yo-yo and the Mandarin language.   

Sampson first learned Mandarin in the fifth grade at St. Mark’s, and, now a sophomore, was inspired to start competing after learning about the competitions and began practicing with his teacher, ​​Dr. CJ Chiang. 

 “I liked the Chinese language, so when I heard about the competitions, I decided to give them a try,” he said. “I practiced my speech by writing and memorizing it with the help of my teacher. She also helped me learn a skill called Chinese yo-yo.”

Last fall, Sampson broke his patella and had to undergo surgery to repair it. While recovering, he decided to learn more about Chinese culture. 

 “When I got knee surgery in the fall, I lost time to practice, but I was able to explore more about China,” he said. “It led me to discovering each tournament.”

After persevering through his injury, Sampson believed he could compete in a few tournaments on his road to world competition.

“I decided to compete in the National Chinese Speech Competition,” he said. “I thought this would help prepare me for the DFW bridge competition.”

Sampson has been practicing as much as he can to perfect his skills. 

“I started preparing in November,” he added. “Once I won the DFW tournament, I continued to practice as many times as I can each week.”

While Sampson has competed in speech and bridge tournaments, he knows the magnitude of the world bridge competition.

“The competition is televised all over China,” he said. “The competition was created to show how well the Chinese language is circulating throughout the world.”

Being only one of three Americans, Sampson hopes to calm his nerves before performing in front of millions.

“I got pretty nervous the last time I did a competition,” he said. “But this time, I think I just got to go for it and hope for the best because I have been working so hard for this, so I’m looking forward to seeing all of my hard work pay off.”

The competition is broken up into three sections and, with multiple elements totaling a contestant’s score, Sampson must impress the judges.

“The scoring is subjective,” he said. “The judges grade us on Jeopardy-like questions that they’ll ask. Then I’ll recite my speech for them. And finally, I show off my talent using the Chinese yo-yo.” 

Through his hard work and dedication, Sampson is confident that he will perform well and represent his country.

“I’m really excited to compete,” he said. “I hope that all the new things I have been learning and all the stuff I’ve already learned will help me give a good impression to the judges.”

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