Uphill challenge for racer who lost both legs to polio
It's an uphill task, but Patrick Au Yeung Yee-kan, 52, is all ready to conquer the steep slope on the Marsh Road bridge in Wan Chai - in a wheelchair.
Au Yeung, a Manulife financial adviser, who contracted polio when he was only five months old, uses prosthetic legs and crutches to walk.
It was the three-kilometre race at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon tomorrow that gave him the impetus to start using a wheelchair.
'I felt excited when I heard a wheelchair race would be organised. I'd always wanted to have this 'athlete-like' experience,' said Au Yeung, who hopes to complete the race within 20 minutes.
For the first time in 14 years, wheelchair-bound professional athletes and amateurs alike will compete in a full marathon and a three-kilometre race, as the other races for their able-bodied counterparts get under way.
Au Yeung has been training once a week since September with the Momentum Academy, an association created by the Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth.
His coach has given him a few tips to overcome the slope.
'At the beginning, I did not know what the most powerful way to spin the wheels was. I have to spin both wheels to go uphill,' he said, pointing to the pair of small and big wheels on each side of the chair.
'On the slope down, I can only use the smaller one.'
The last time wheelchair athletes competed in the Hong Kong marathon was in 1998, when they had their own 10-kilometre race.
William Ko Wai-lam, chairman of this year's organising committee, said a plan to hold a wheelchair race last year had to be cancelled because only two people signed up.
The main challenge every year is to channel an ever-growing number of participants - totalling 70,000 this year - onto roads, tunnels and narrow streets before the roads reopen to traffic at 2pm.
This year nine wheelchair racers are competing in the full marathon, including three from Hong Kong and three from Japan. Some 31 others, all locals, are participating in the three-kilometre race.
'We will see how it goes before considering raising the limit next year,' Ko said.
This weekend, Au Yeung will line up at 6am sharp inside Wan Chai Sports Ground, and finish in Victoria Park. The wheelchair races will start at 6.10am, while the able-bodied races will begin at 6.45am and 7.15am.