A 12-year-old autistic girl has proved that disability is no bar to sporting success. Gymnast Lau Mei-yu gave a dazzling performance at this year's Special Summer Olympic Games in Oregon, United States. Mei-yu claimed the junior award by winning three gold medals in the girls' all-round, vaulting and balance beam and two silver medals in the floor exercises and uneven bars. She also became the first junior gymnast to obtain 10 marks in the balance beam at the event for handicapped people. A pupil at Salvation Army Shek Wu Primary School, she looks normal enough, but has a 'hidden fear' of people and a limited ability to communicate. Mei-yu's parents were shocked to find out that their daughter suffered from autism and were worried about her. However, everything changed when she met gymnastics coach Ng Siu-yi after joining a training course organised by the Hong Kong Sports Association for the Mentally Handicapped last year. 'When I first met Mei-yu, I did not know whether I was capable of teaching her. Coaching a mentally-handicapped person is a challenging task, but I decided to give it a try,' Ng said. However, Mei-yu's dignified manner and dedication helped dispel all those doubts. 'She is a straightforward, brave girl. She's hard-working and not inferior to her able-bodied counterparts. She copes with competition pressure very well and never complains about the intensive training regimen. She's a good role model for others,' Ng said. Mei-yu said her most memorable experience was her 'perfect' performance on the balance beam at the games. 'It was amazing. I never imagined that I would do so well,' she said. 'Sport to me is more than about health. It has enhanced my self-esteem and broadened my circle of friends.' Mei-yu said her father, coach and friends were very supportive since sport had helped change her personality and shape her personal goals. Her dream is to follow in the footsteps of her idol, former Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. Her next goal is to improve her performance and bring home more medals in future Special Olympics and promote sports for the disabled among the local community. Mei-yu's father, Lau King- choi, said her daughter was a good example as to how handicapped people could learn to be independent. 'I was once worried about her future. Now, I'm proud of her. She has self-confidence and initiative and a positive attitude to wards life. I hope her dream will come true,' he said. The Hong Kong Sports Development Board has set aside $1.37 million this financial year to support sports for the disabled.