Lai Chi-wai, the first Chinese athlete to be nominated for the Laureaus World’s Best Sporting award, hopes his success will inspire both athletes with disabilities and Chinese people that there are no limits to pursuing your dreams.
A four-time champion of the Asian Rock Climbing Championships and the world’s first Chinese winner of the X-Game’s extreme sports, 35-year-old Lai had a bright career ahead of him until a car accident left him paralysed hip down in 2011.
Despite his physical limitations, Lai pushed on, trying a range of wheelchair sports including boxing, fencing and table tennis. But nothing could replace his love for rock climbing,.
It took months for Lai to get used to his new limitations and, as he described, it was one of his lowest moments – falling from the top as Asia’s best climber to becoming wheel-chair bound. But it was on the fifth anniversary of the accident, on December 9, 2016, that he decided to climb one Lion Rock – a 495 metre tall mountain and a symbol of Hong Kong’s spirit, persistence, resilience and unity.
“To me climbing to the top was accomplishing a dream of mine and 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,” Lai told Reuters.
Lai, a part time motivational speaker, was recently nominated for the global sporting Laureus award’s World’s Best Sporting moment for his climb up Lion Rock. He hopes his story of rehabilitation will inspire others with disabilities and show that nothing should stand in the way of fulfilling dreams.