Hong Kong equestrian Jacqueline Lai says she is now a stronger rider
'Iron Woman' ready to lead Hong Kong charge after recovering from horror fall in 2011
Jacqueline Lai Jing-man says she has become a stronger rider after a serious injury that almost ended her equestrian career two years ago.
The 22-year-old showjumper, who suffered a fractured pelvis in an accident during a training session in Denmark in early 2011, has made the four-member Hong Kong squad that left yesterday for the 12th National Games, which take place in Shenyang next month.
Hong Kong will be represented by the same quartet who clinched a team bronze in Jinan, Shandong province, four years ago. The squad also includes Patrick Lam Lap-suen, Samantha Lam and Kenneth Cheng Man-kit. Patrick Lam, who was born in Austria to an Austrian mother and Hong Kong father, also captured the individual jumping gold in Jinan in Shandong province.
"It was a big injury but it also made me stronger, strangely," said Lai, who pointed to her lower back. "They now often call me the iron woman as I am full of metal here.
"But all I want to say is I am now a better athlete, mentally and physically. It's indeed my greatest accomplishment, making it back to the international stage."
Lai resumed competition in 2012, more than eight months after the injury. She was placed fifth at both the CSI 3 star Speed Class of Vestfold in Norway and the CSI 2 star Grand Prix of Redefin in Germany this year. She also won the National Grand Prix of Vibory in Denmark.
Hong Kong will face eight other teams in Shenyang with Inner Mongolia and Shanghai the biggest hurdles to clear if they want to win their first-ever team gold medal at the National Games.
"We have a pretty strong team and are aiming at a better finish than last time," said Lai, who will be riding U-Prova, a horse rented in China. "This will be the first competition where we work together but I know he has the ability and has a big heart. I am still getting to know him." She is not bringing her own horse from Europe because of quarantine problems.
Patrick Lam and Samantha Lam, however, have both brought their own horses from Europe, but will sell them on the mainland after the National Games to avoid quarantine issues in Europe. Cheng will use the same China-based horse, Chairman V, he rode in Jinan four years ago.
Lai was in Beijing earlier this month to train with U-Prova and will stay in the capital city for six more days before heading to Shenyang.
"The training in Beijing is quite extensive as each horse may need to ride a maximum of three rounds in the team competition," said deputy chef d'equipe Angela Kong. "We need to get a good result in the team competition on September 2 because only the best 20 riders can qualify for the individual event two days later."
The team competition requires horses to clear hurdles of 1.4 metres. This will be increased to 1.5 metres for the individual event.