Wheelchair-bound athlete honored for climbing up mountain

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A car accident seven years ago stripped professional Hong Kong rock climber Lai Chi-wai of his ability to walk, but this did not stop him climbing up a mountain that is roughly the height of New York’s Empire State Building.

The 35-year-old, who is paralyzed from the hip down, recently became the first Chinese athlete to be nominated for the Laureus World’s Best Sporting Moment of the month after he successfully scaled Lion Rock – a 495 meter tall (1624 feet)mountain which symbolizes a “Hong Kong spirit” of persistence, resilience and unity.

The Laureus World Sports Award honors the best sportsmen and sportswomen of the year, as well as sporting moments of the month. The awards organization was founded by Swiss-based luxury goods firm Richemont and German carmaker Daimler.

Lai lost the December award to a viral video which showed a packed sports stadium of 70,000 people in Iowa turning and waving to children in an adjacent hospital.

But he said he was surprised he was nominated to begin with, and hoped his story could inspire Chinese people and athletes with disabilities.

“To me climbing to the top was accomplishing a dream of mine,” Lai said.

“It also – by climbing the mountain – meant that I could show to my friends and supporters that I have overcome one of the lowest points in life: even though I’m in a wheelchair I can challenge other sports and still be able to do what I love most.”

A four-time champion of the Asian Rock Climbing Championships and the world’s first Chinese winner of the X-Game’s extreme sports, Lai climbed up Lion Rock on December 9, 2016, upon the 5th anniversary of the car accident.

Reporting by Pak Yiu; Writing by Pak Yiu and Venus Wu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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