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31 January 2017

Inspirational Runner Becomes First Ever Blind Person to Complete Antarctic Ice Marathon

Gary Leung Sui-wai & Jennifer Cheung Sze-ying arrive at the airport following the race - Img: David Wong / South China Morning Post 
Hong Kong Resident Gary Leung Sui-wai has defied the odds and provided an inspiring message to those with disabilities after becoming the first blind person to ever complete the gruelling 100km long Antarctic Ice Marathon, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

The event was held as part of the World Marathon Challenge 2017, which sees competitors attempt to travel across 7 continents, completing 7 marathons in 7 days. The challenge amounts to a staggering total of 295km in length.

Leung, 49, took part in the event alongside running partner Jennifer Cheung Sze-ying, 42, in an effort to raise money for the charity Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, following a surge in suicide rates among students last year. Sponsorship from major banks has led to the duo raising over HK$200,000, but for Leung, who lost his sight in 2009 due to a retina defect suffered during childhood, the challenge very nearly had an abrupt and disappointing end.

Leung and Cheung experienced fairly favourable conditions in terms of weather during their run, with Leung telling reporters that despite strong winds they had managed to avoid heavy snowfall. The setting sun became their greatest hindrance as the darkness made their route difficult for Cheung to navigate; that is until the 40km mark, when Leung suffered a ligament injury that very nearly forced him out of the race.

Cheung encouraged her running mate Leung to press on past the injury and complete the race - and complete it he did, finishing in sixth place overall. That’s an impressive feat from even the most able-bodied of us, but for a blind man with damaged ligaments, it’s nothing short of incredible!

Arriving at Hong Kong International Airport after the event, Leung spoke to awaiting reporters about the challenges he faced and how he hoped to a serve as an example for those facing adversity:

“The target was not easy but there is always something you have to sacrifice, you have to put in the effort to reach your goal. It was not just about the competition, it was about the love and support I got from my family, friends and especially Jennifer.

“Nothing is impossible for disabled or able-bodied people. You can just try to do your best.”

Clarence Tsang, Executive Director of Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, praised Leung for not only his fundraising efforts, but also the personal strength and perseverance he demonstrated throughout the event:

“We think it would be good to encourage the people of Hong Kong with this. It shows no matter what challenges they face, they can overcome them. I think Gary particularly is a good role model for the general public. And Jennifer too for helping others to achieve their dreams.

“It is not easy as a visually impaired runner to go to the South Pole and run in those conditions.

“They have been very kind to make use of this chance to raise funds for us.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.