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Longines Hong Kong Masters

After finally qualifying for World Games, ‘Iron Woman’ Jacqueline Lai is still chasing Olympic dream and Tokyo 2020

Injury forced her to miss London 2012 and the HK team fell short in reaching Rio 2016 but equestrian rider refuses to give up

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 February, 2018, 6:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 February, 2018, 10:36pm

Equestrian rider Jacqueline Lai Jing-man still feels muscle stiffness after recovering from her fractured pelvis but that will not stop her from pursuing her goals in the sport.

Last year, the Hong Kong rider achieved her biggest success so far by qualifying for the 2018 World Equestrian Games which will take place in the United States this summer, just two weeks after the Asian Games in Indonesia, for which she also hopes to be selected.

“I have fully recovered from the injury which has made me stronger, physically and mentally,” said Lai, who will be featuring in the weekend’s Longines Hong Kong Masters, her third consecutive appearance in one of the biggest indoor showjumping events.

“Although I have to keep working on it (muscle stiffness) because of the injury, I have already put it behind me. Many athletes have come through the same recovery process and I am happy I have made it.”

A horrific fall during training in 2011 left Lai with a broken pelvis, which almost brought a premature end to her career. But she recovered miraculously and captured a silver medal at the China National Games two years later.

Lai, who turns 27 on February 15, is still referred to as the “Iron Woman” by her friends as she is left with 13 small metal plates and two to three larger pieces inside her pelvis which will remain in her body for life.

But her pursuit for excellence in equestrianism has never been affected, with the World Games and the Olympic Games her biggest targets.

“Competing in the World Games will be another important step for me as it represents the highest level of competition in the sport and a big thank to those who have helped me in my career over these years. Of course, there is also the Olympic Games in two years and that will be my next target of reaching Tokyo.”

The Jockey Club equestrian team rider was part of the Hong Kong squad that sorely missed out on a place at the 2016 Rio Olympics, coming third behind Australia and Japan in the final qualifying competition. She missed the qualification for 2012 London due to the injury.

“I am sourcing more horse power to help me reach the Olympic dream as the sport requires the combination of rider and the horse. We need both,” she said.

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Lai has brought Basta, a 13-year-old stallion, to Hong Kong for the third year in a row . At the 2016 event, they were one of the nine combinations which achieved a perfect clear round in one of the races, the Longines Speed Challenge at 1.45m.

It was on the same horse that Lai earned her ticket for the 2018 World Games with only four faults at one of the qualifying events in Denmark.

The three-day event at AsiaWorld Expo in Chap Lap Kok features a strong field of world class showjumpers such as Frenchmen Kevin Stuart and Roger-Yves Bost, both members of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold medal winning team, Daniel Deusser of Germany, winner of last year’s speed challenge and masters trophy, and American Reed Kessler, the youngest rider to compete at the Olympics in London in 2012.