Hong Kong road racer Meng Zhaojuan fears for career after fracturing skull in practice crash
The 26-year-old says she is still suffering from dizzy spells and has doubts about competing in the Rio Olympics
A fractured skull is likely to end the Olympic dreams of Hong Kong’s leading road race rider Meng Zhaojuan – and possibly her career.
Meng, 26, crashed during training with the women’s team before the Asian Championships in Oshima, Japan, a fortnight ago and was taken to hospital.
“It is just destiny if I cannot attend the Olympic Games in Rio,” said a tearful Meng, who is ranked 81st in the world and the highest among all road race riders from Hong Kong.
“I lost consciousness after the incident and everything [about the accident] was told to me by my coach.
“I still feel very weak and dizzy after coming back to Hong Kong and I have also lost some of my hearing ability.
“I don’t think the Olympic Games would be possible now and I also worry if i can ride again. If I can’t, I hope I have other options to try.”
Meng is recovering at the Sports Institute in Fo Tan.
Meng was once the biggest hope of representing Hong Kong in the women’s road race in Rio in August. She was expected to help teammate Yang Qianyu win the Olympic berth for Hong Kong at the Asian Championships.
“I hit a ditch and fell from the bike during our first practice session. Unfortunately, the following team member was unable to stop and ploughed straight into my head. I was told my helmet was also smashed and I sent to the hospital.”
Without the support of Meng and another team member, Pang Yao – who crashed during the race – Yang managed only a sixth place. Only the champion won the ticket to Rio.
Despite Hong Kong failing to secure the Olympic berth through the Asian Championships, Meng was still able to qualify through the world rankings if she finishes in the top 100 by May 31.
On Tuesday, she was also selected to start as the only Hong Kong rider in the Ladies Tour of Qatar, representing the China Chongming road race team, in an attempt to collect ranking points.
Meng had also planned to race in the “Tour of Thailand” in April, which she won last year, and the Tour of Zhoushan Island in May, which wraps up the Olympic qualification programme.
Coach Shen Jinkang said Meng would need two months’ recovery before she could ride again, while Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak extended a hand of comfort to Meng.
“Riders always worry about their future when they suffer serious injuries,” said Leung, a former Hong Kong road race team captain.
“I know how Meng feels as I also suffered serious injuries. But she can recover and ride again.”
Hong Kong are likely to send five riders to Rio – the same number for the London Games four years ago.
The men’s road race berth has been confirmed along with sprinter Sarah Lee Wai-sze in the track. There should be two more berths in the omnium and one in the mountain bike cross-country event.