Runners reach new heights in charity race up city's tallest tower

Blind teenager and amputee among participants in gruelling climb up Hong Kong's tallest tower

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:23am

Blind teenager Choi Lok-sze and amputee Fung Kam-hung were among some 1,000 charity fun-runners who tackled the 2,120 gruelling steps of Hong Kong's tallest tower yesterday morning.

Choi, 16, was aided by her guide Karen Chau Yi-ting up the steps of the International Commerce Centre.

"I found it very challenging," Choi said after finishing her first vertical run in 32 minutes, 30 seconds. "I was very tired at the end but Karen encouraged me a lot during the race."

Fung, 65, lost part of his left leg in a traffic accident 34 years ago. As president of the Hong Kong Amputees Sport Association, he led a team of five and finished in 30 minutes, 21 seconds.

The 65-year old uses a prosthetic from below the knee, and yesterday wore a hi-tech carbon-fibre "blade" like those used by Paralympic athletes. "We just want to show a few things… that amputees can do something, to run as they do," Fung said.

Runners had to scale 82 storeys to reach the finish line on the Sky100 observatory deck. Organisers hope the event will net HK$5 million for local charities.

For the first time, the annual charity race organised by Sun Hung Kai Properties and The Community Chest also served as the final leg of the Vertical World Circuit for elite runners.

Australia walked away with victories in the elite races for men and women, with both winners also claiming the series title.

Mark Bourne (12 minutes, 4 seconds) and Suzy Walsham (14 minutes, 32 seconds) celebrated being crowned world champions by smashing the course record - by more than a minute in Bourne's case, and five minutes for Walsham.

"It was a very tough race, there was very good competition here today," Bourne said.

Compatriot Darren Wilson crossed the line seven seconds after Bourne, and the pair slumped onto each other's shoulders as they gasped for air. Poland's Piotr Lobodzinski collapsed to the ground in exhaustion as he finished 20 seconds behind the leader.

"I managed to get into first position with about 20 or 30 floors to go…but it's so tight around the stairs, it is very hard to pass people," Bourne said.

Reigning world champion Thomas Dold started with promise, launching ahead of the chasing pack amid pushing and shoving on the first corner.

But hampered by a nasty case of flu, the 29-year-old German came fourth, finishing in 12 minutes 41 seconds, and ceding his title to Bourne.

"I feel dead, like everyone else," Dold said after reaching the finish line. "This is a really big challenge for the elites, but it's great for all the people who've come to compete with us."

Walsham, who went into the race with an unassailable lead in the championship, led from the front and commanded the race throughout, despite a "difficult" climb.