- Lui wins first race after winter training camp with personal best in 60 metre hurdles
- She qualifies for February’s Asian Indoor Championships where she aims to improve her world ranking
Hurdler Vera Lui Lai-yiu began the new year campaign with a bang, setting a personal best in the women's 60 metre hurdles on Sunday and putting Tokyo Olympics qualification firmly in her sights.
Hong Kong's top hurdler won the event in 8.32 seconds at the 2020 Hong Kong Athletics Preseason Trial 1 at Wan Chai Sports Ground, booking a berth at next month's Asian Indoor Championships in Hangzhou, China, in February.
"I felt great after the winter training camp and I am happy to set a personal best at the beginning of the year," she said. "My previous best was 8.41 seconds when I won the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games in Turkmenistan.
"I have set two major targets for the year: winning a berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and breaking the long-standing Hong Kong record in the 100 metre hurdles."
So far, only 21 women have run inside the Tokyo Games' 100 metre hurdles qualification standard of 12.84 seconds, about half of the quota of 40 available.
The remaining places will be determined through the world ranking system if no more athletes make the standard.
Vera Lui easily wins her first race of the season with sights firmly set on an 2020 Olympic berth pic.twitter.com/fRHxXQU8c4
" Kin-wa Chan (@Kinwachan1024) January 19, 2020
With a maximum of three athletes from one nation allowed for the Olympic Games, Lui, with a 53rd world ranking, is keen to pursue her dream with an improved standing.
The Asian Indoor Championships will serve as a chance for Lui to better the ranking (60m hurdles also counts towards the 100m hurdles ranking) if she can reach her target of 8.2 seconds.
"With the approach of the Olympics, more top regional runners will be in Hangzhou which can push me harder," said Lui. "Japan's new record holder (100m hurdles) with a time of 12.97 seconds is expected to be there with other top Asian hurdlers. We'll see."
Lui came close to the 100-metre Hong Kong record of 13.14 seconds set by Chan Sau-ying in the United States in 1994 when she finished the Asian Grand Prix series in Chongqing last year in 13.18, but the result was not recognised because of a following wind speed of 2.4 metres/second.
I can finally break the Hong Kong record, says hurdler Vera Lui
"It was just slightly over the allowed 2.0m/s but I consider it just a matter of time until I break it, provided I can take part in more quality competitions," she said. "I am working with my coach and the association to identify more overseas events."
Simon Yeung Sai-mo, senior vice-chairman of Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, promised full financial backing for Lui's bid to qualify for the Olympics.
"We are not talking about supporting a whole bunch of some 20 or more athletes. There are only a very limited number of athletes that have the quality to qualify and we will give these potential athletes full support to help them achieve the target," said the official.
"Lui is among them, while Christy Yiu in the women's marathon and Ching Siu-nga in the women's 20km race walk are also in a strong position to book an Olympic ticket."
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