Blind, but now she's right back on track

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am

Going blind caused Fu Tai-fan to lose confidence and her job, but long-distance running put a smile back on her face.

After struggling with part-time jobs for seven years as she battled deteriorating sight, Fu, 32, went blind four years ago. 'I talked more slowly. I lost all energy,' she said.

The finely built Fu, with a ponytail and dressed in running trunks, recalled those dark days as she limbered up at a sports ground. Now a confident woman and top telesales agent, she is a member of a running team under the Hong Kong Blind Sports Association.

When Fu was four years old, she wore thick glasses to overcome extreme myopia (short-sightedness). It got worse when she was 16 and diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition that causes gradual loss of sight. She lost her full-time job in 2002 and in 2006 went blind. A long search for another job proved fruitless.

'Many employers doubt the working ability of the disabled,' she said. 'Or they are not sure if their working environment has the right equipment to help the visually impaired.'

When she started training, and running with a guide athlete to tell her what lay ahead, she found things very difficult. She got serious muscle pain in the early stages of training, but slowly gained confidence. 'Running makes me happy. In a month, I was able to finish six kilometres.'

A turning point came in the Standard Chartered Marathon events last year when she finished the 10 kilometre race. 'Running is very tiring, but I managed to do it. Finding a job shouldn't be much harder,' she said.

Indeed, a month after the race, she gained a job as a telesales agent of beauty products. 'I can say I'm a top saleswoman now,' she said shyly.

Although working full-time, she trains several nights a week and last year competed in a half marathon in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier this year, she ran in the marathon of the Standard Chartered programme, but had to stop after the 36-kilometre mark after failing to meet the required time limit for finishing. 'I want to finish the marathon next time, though,' she said.

Lam Wai-keung, a coach who trains Fu and 29 other visually impaired runners and 80 volunteers, praised her spirit. He said it was difficult for people that see to imagine the physical challenges facing Fu and other visually impaired runners.