Blade runner gets skates on

Blade runner gets skates on

HK's top competitor is a success despite not having a home track

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Photos: May Tse
Vanessa Natalie Wong hopes it's third time lucky for her after being nominated for the third year in a row in the Hong Kong Junior Sports Stars Awards.

Although she has yet to win an award, Vanessa received a high number of public votes last year and has been dubbed Hong Kong's "roller queen".

The Form Six student, 17, from Hotung Secondary School, got her first pair of roller skates at age four. She followed in the footsteps of elder sister Angelina, 23, who is now a coach.

"I started as a figure skater, but soon switched to speed skating," she says. "I like the feeling of moving fast around the rink."

Last July, she gained her greatest success - finishing fifth in the 300 metres track race and sixth in both the 500m track and 200m road events at the 14th Asian Roller Skating Championships in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Yet it was not enough for her to gain a place at last November's Asian Games in Guangzhou. Her application to take part was turned down by the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China.

"I shouldn't have missed the Asian Games," she says. "I could have done well. The skaters who beat me in the Asian Championships are mainly from Taiwan and South Korea - both teams are in the world's top three - so this shows my standards are not far from the world's best."

Her success in 300m races that last less than 30 seconds has come despite Hong Kong having no proper roller skating rinks, apart from some small ones for children. She has to share football pitches for training along with other athletes. "It's not ideal, as the perimeter of a pitch is 125 metres; we need to go round the field twice to cover the usual 300m race course," she says.

Vanessa gets snarled at when skaters book up the pitch. "Some people become angry when we book up the pitch. Sometimes they use bad language at us. It's hurtful, but I want to tell them it's not like we have a choice."

Her training three to four times a week also includes running around the estate where she lives and spinning in the gym.

Part of her success is down to a pair of tailor-made roller skates made in Taiwan, which fit her perfectly now. They took some time to get used to. "At the Asian Championships, I was not used to the new shoes and my feet were swollen after the 42-kilometre race."

Vanessa's sport also means that her physique may give her problems when shopping for trousers. "I participate in track events and, as the race is always in anti-clockwise direction, I mus t use my left leg to support my body," she says.

"My left leg has become stronger and is thicker than my right leg. I have problems buying jeans and trousers that fit. But I don't mind as I enjoy competing."

Go to sportstar2010.hkolympic.org to vote for Vanessa and other junior athletes in the Hong Kong Junior Sports Stars Awards to show your support for their efforts in 2010.

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