HK sprinter only 6th, but says his best is yet to come

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 September, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong sprinter So Wa-wai finished sixth in last night's 400 metres race at the Beijing Paralympics but said he was still confident about standing on the podium in his main event - the 200 metres.

The 27-year-old 'wonder boy' has won numerous international titles, including three medals at the Athens Paralympics in his T-36 impairment category. So won silver in the 400 metres at the Paralympics four years ago and gold in the 200 metres. He's also the world record holder in the 100 and 200 metres in his category.

He won the bronze medal on Tuesday in the 100 metres, an event in which he won the silver in Athens.

But he appeared a lot stronger yesterday - at least, at the beginning.

'I felt calmer today, and my aim was to find the feeling for the 200 metres race, which I achieved,' So said. 'I started better, and the first 300 metres was good.

'I just ran out of strength after 350 metres.'

The 100 metres race was So's first outing at the National Stadium, and after the disappointing result, he said he could not hear the starter's gun from his place in lane nine. Suffering from cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment since birth, he said the crowd's cheers encouraged him to catch up.

There was no delay in So's start last night, but there was a slight hiccup as the competitors entered the final 100 metres. The athlete in lane seven tripped, and So, in lane six, was distracted and slowed down.

Coach Au-Yeung Ka-kue said it would not have affected the final placings since So's personal best was about 57 seconds, and the top four runners yesterday all ran faster than that. So's time of 58.44 was his season best. The gold medallist, Ukraine's Roman Pavlyk, set a world record at 54.13. The bronze medallist, China's Che Mian, finished in 55.70.

Au-Yeung said Pavlyk, who also won the gold in the 100 metres, would be So's biggest competitor in the 200 metres. So had never run against Pavlyk until these Games.

'The Ukrainian runner is stronger than I expected, but hopefully, I won't be affected by him,' So said. 'There should still be a chance that I can win.' Organisers have not determined whether a preliminary in the 200 metres will be needed on Sunday. If not, the final is on Monday.

Hong Kong's Paralympics team so far has won one gold, one silver and one bronze.