Hurdler takes life in her stride

Hurdler takes life in her stride

Confidence will help athlete Vera Lui achieve her dream of competing at the Olympic Games

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Hong Kong's Vera Lui Lai-yiu hopes to race at the 2016 or 2020 Olympics.
Hong Kong's Vera Lui Lai-yiu hopes to race at the 2016 or 2020 Olympics.
Photo: Warton Li/SCMP
When the mainland's former Olympic champion Liu Xiang fell at the first hurdle with an Achilles injury at the London Games, Hong Kong student Vera Lui Lai-yiu knew just how he felt.

Vera, 17, who will start Form Six at Pui Ching Middle School in Mong Kok, next week, has had her fair share of injuries and tumbles on the track.

She has overcame a bad start to her hurdling career to achieve remarkable success - in both local and international competitions.

She took up athletics in Primary Three. "I trained for the long jump, high jump and the 100-metre hurdles," she says. "But I chose hurdling as my main event in Form One."

However, in her first appearance in a school 100m hurdles race, the unthinkable happened: she tripped at the very first hurdle.

"My leg started to bleed and I felt so ashamed to have had such an accident in front of my school crowd. I couldn't hear their response, but I still felt bad," she says.

She was determined to improve and worked hard to perfect her technique. Today she is Hong Kong's top junior girl 100-metre hurdler and top female 400-metre hurdler.

Vera says the secret of her success is simply confidence. "You need to trust yourself and never be afraid of the hurdles," she says. "When I jump the 10hurdles in a 100-metre race, I'm really confident and it becomes a smooth process."

Liu was injured before he lined up for his Olympic race; Vera has battled injuries, too. "I pulled the muscle at the back of my thigh. It affected my performance a lot. So now, before training, I spend between 30 to 45 minutes doing warm-up exercises. I also massage my leg muscles so I won't injure them again."

At 1.75 metres tall, Vera's above-average height gives her an advantage in races. This year, she won a bronze medal in the 100metres hurdles at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships and ran a personal best time of 13.31seconds in a local race.

She was only 0.11 seconds away from the qualifying time for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Spain this July. But the near-miss didn't frustrate her.

"I like the feeling of breaking my personal best time. Last year I also missed the IAAF World Youth Championships by only 0.3seconds," she says.

"I know I won't be able to run in world junior or youth championships, as I will be over-age next year, but I treasure the preparation time. The tournaments provided strong motivation; without them, I wouldn't have improved so much in such a short period."

Vera, who last week received her second successive Sports for Hope Foundation Outstanding Junior Athlete Award of 2012, says her dream is to qualify for the 2016 or 2020 Olympics.

"Besides aiming to attend the Asian Games and Universiade, I want to qualify for the Olympics, by obtaining a wild card offered to Hong Kong. To do so, I need to run the 100m hurdles in around 13 seconds. That's my goal."

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