Zhang Wei, a rising Hong Kong gymnastics star who fell on her head in training on Tuesday, underwent a five-hour operation yesterday to realign two vertebrae in her neck. Zhang, 14, who joined the Hong Kong team two years ago, fell on Tuesday night at Shun Lee Tsuen Sports Centre in Kwun Tong and injured her neck. Head coach Poon King-hung, of the Gymnastics Association of Hong Kong, China, said doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital decided to operate after traction failed. Poon said last night that the surgery was successful and doctors had realigned the vertebrae in her neck. Surgeons had told him that whether she would be able to compete again would depend on her recovery in the next three to six months. Poon said Zhang had awoken from surgery saying she was thirsty but not in pain. Zhang fell from the uneven parallel bars while attempting a backward somersault, dislocating two cervical vertebrae. After the fall, she was conscious and able to move her hands but her legs were numb, Poon said. 'Despite such a big accident, she has been very strong,' he said. 'She even comforted her parents before going into the operating theatre.' Meanwhile, the association said yesterday it was investigating the cause of the accident and would provide assistance to the girl's family. Poon said the stadium facilities were up to standard and the association had trained there since 2006. After the accident, Zhang's family members, school principal and gymnastics coach visited her in the paediatric intensive care unit. Flower baskets from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and the association were delivered. An associate professor of physical education at Baptist University, Lobo Louie Hung-tak, said Zhang's recovery could be fast if the operation went smoothly. 'I think the association has taken a quick and appropriate approach to Zhang's treatment since the accident,' Professor Louie said. But whether she resumed athletic life was still uncertain, he said. 'I think we have to wait at least nine months to one year to see how her recovery progresses.' He believed Zhang's daily life would not be affected even with only an 80 per cent recovery. Zhang moved to Hong Kong with her family two years ago from the mainland. She has been a gymnast since she was four years old. Recently she and the other Hong Kong team members competed in Yunnan and won a fifth prize. In 1998, mainland gymnast Sang Lan was paralysed from the waist down in a fall at the Goodwill Games in New York that broke her neck.