Comeback queen Jacqueline Lai hopes National Games silver medal is first of many
After fearing she might never ride again after injury, showjumper fights back to claim silver
Showjumper Jacqueline Lai Ching-man was in the hospital two years ago fearing she might never ride again after breaking her pelvis during a practice session - yesterday, she won a silver medal for Hong Kong at the National Games in Shenyang after a nerve-wracking jump-off.Four riders were tied at the top with four penalty points each after the two-round competition and Lai and her rented horse U-Prova, with whom she had worked for only a month, had to settle for second after receiving four penalty points in the tie-breaker.
Zhu Meimei of Beijing won the gold with a clear round, while Dayima of Inner Mongolia came third with four penalty points but a worse time than Lai. Li Zhenqiang of Guangdong, a silver medallist four years ago, was fourth with eight penalty points.
Patrick Lam Lap-suen failed to defend the title he won for Hong Kong in Shandong four years ago, placing 11th with 12 penalty points, while Samantha Lam was ninth (also 12 points but with a better time) in the 20 best-placed riders competition after Monday's team event.
"I'm really satisfied with my ride today," said the delighted Lai, 22. "I knew I had the chance in the jump-off to get a gold but Zhu had a fast time with a clear round and because I don't know my stallion too well, I didn't want to risk him 100 per cent.
"We won a team bronze four years ago and I was quite green in a very experienced squad, but now I've come back much stronger after the injury and am also more experienced. It is well deserved and a big reward for the effort I made to get over those difficult times."
Lai's next target is qualification for the World Equestrian Games to be held in France next year, followed by the Asian Games in South Korea.
"The silver medal is a milestone in my career, but I am still young and there will be a lot more chances for me in future as equestrian is a sport in which you can have a long career," she said.
German trainer Lars Meyer zu Bexten, who helped Hong Kong win three medals in Shandong four years ago, was not too disappointed despite returning home with just one this time.
"We have to be well aware the sport has been growing a lot in China over the last four years and considering we only had three riders in the team competition but were able to finish a very close fourth, we have done a good job," he said.
"Jacqueline did not know the horse very well, especially in the team competition, but today she did an amazing job."
Lai will receive a HK$200,000 performance award from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, plus HK$150,000 under the Hang Seng Bank Athlete Incentive Awards.
Meanwhile, cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze continued the quest for Hong Kong's first gold after reaching the quarter-finals in the women's individual sprint when she beat Li Xuemei of Hebei.
In windsurfing, Michael Cheng Chun-leung and Andy Leung Ho-tsun were ninth and 18th respectively with two more races to go in the men's RSX, while Hayley Chan Hei-man was 10th in the women's event.