"Triathletes don't give up"

"Triathletes don't give up"

Joyce Cheung’s competitive spirit has earned her the nickname “Iron Woman”

One particularly tough triathlon held in the United States is called the Iron Man because of its gruelling length and harsh conditions.

Here in Hong Kong, female triathlete Joyce Cheung Ting-yan has earned the nickname, "Iron Woman", after her brave performances over the past year.

She shrugged off two serious injuries to win February's 10,000m race at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, and then finish second at last month's Asian Cup Meizhou ITU Sprint Triathlon.

Such courage and determination means the men in Hong Kong's triathlon team think of her as "one of the guys".

A bloodied and bruised Cheung, 25, won her first-ever 10,000m title at the marathon after two bad falls right at the start.

However, her victory came at a price. A torn hamstring left her unable to race at the Asian Cup triathlon in Indonesia, in March.

"I fell twice - tumbled, got up, but was then pinned to the ground again," says Cheung, who is now a full-time athlete training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, in Sha Tin.

"It was really painful and I could have stopped. But as a triathlete, I knew I couldn't just give up, so I chose to go on.

"I didn't have time to think about the pain. I just started to run. I knew I needed to accelerate to catch up with the other runners ahead of me after at least a minute's delay."

Cheung, who completed her degree in physical education and recreation management at Baptist University in the summer, won the elite women's event in a time of 39minutes and 32seconds. She had finished second or third in the race in previous years.

"It was nice to finally win it, but the injury meant I couldn't compete for three weeks," she says.

Her injury woes continued during a training camp in Japan this summer. She tore a leg muscle and was forced to stop training.

Then last month she gashed her foot while competing at the Asian Cup in Meizhou, in Guangdong.

The freak accident occurred while she was running barefoot in the transition zone after the cycling section. Just before putting on her running shoes, she tripped over the wheel of her bicycle and hurt her foot.

"I fell over and suffered a deep cut between my fourth and little toes," Cheung says. "It was quite a serious injury, but then I heard my teammate, Hilda Choi Yan-yin, shouting to me, 'Get up, Joyce!'.

"So it was a struggle as I got to my feet, stood my bike in its place, then quickly slipped my shoes on and started running."

Cheung finished second, but believes she would have won the event had she not been injured.

She needed six stitches for the wound, but, luckily, the injury came at the end of the triathlon season.

"Many people have asked me how I always seem to have good results despite suffering painful injuries in competitions," she says.

"I don't think the two things are connected. I'm pretty easy-going in life, except when I'm trying to accomplish things. Then I have a very strong will.

"In the race in Meizhou, my coach had set a target for both me and Hilda to finish in the top three. Hilda really helped me by encouraging me to keep going."

Cheung is enjoying a break from competition now, but she is already looking to next September's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

"There'll be a mixed gender team relay at next year's Asian Games," she says. "It's possible I'll be teaming up with Hilda and two other guys in the race. Our training in the next few months is going be crucial. We believe we've a real chance of winning a medal."

She's already sounding excited about competing at the Games. It's true. She never gives up.

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