On top of the world

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am

After making sure the rope is tightly attached to her harness, Lisa Cheng performs stunts as she makes her way up the wall.

At one point, she holds on to a big boulder with one hand, and swings her body in the air, soaking up the experience.

'Many people say climbing is risky. Actually this is not the case. We focus more on safety rather than technique. It also gives you great satisfaction when you make it to the top,' says Cheng, a professional climber.

Sports climbing has caught on in Hong Kong in recent years, and Cheng is aware of its increasing popularity.

The champion at both the UIAA Climbing World Cup 2006 - Shanghai and UIAA Asian Championships 2006 - Kaoshiung has been in the sport for 10 years after first trying it as a 12-year-old.

'A lot of young people are giving it a try. The government and sports centres are also offering support by organising various climbing courses. There are more than 20 sports climbing areas in Hong Kong now,' she says.

There is a major difference between sports climbing and rock climbing (also known as traditional climbing).

In the former category, the climbing route is equipped with permanent anchors or bolts fixed on the wall or rock for protection.

In rock climbing, participants set their own course.

Many people who want to join the sport are worried. Some have a fear of heights, while others (especially girls) think that climbing would make them more muscular.

'Most people suffer from psychological stress rather than acrophobia. One way to overcome this fear is to set yourself a goal and try your best to reach the top,' says Cheng, a full-time athlete who is a member of the national sports climbing squad. 'There's no need to worry about muscles. You won't have big muscles unless you train awfully hard. In fact, sports climbing helps to firm up your muscles, which makes you look slimmer.'

Cheng says she's proud to be the first woman to enter the annual bun-scrambling competition on Cheung Chau. She came sixth among 12 participants last year.

'It's really a challenge for a woman to beat men in the elimination rounds. I will never forget the experience. I hope I'll get to take part in this year's competition,' she says.