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Climbing her way to the top

Published on Thursday, 25 Aug 2011
Lisa Cheng works as a personal trainer and part-time lecturer to support herself.
Photo: Dickson Lee

Nicknamed “Spider Woman”, Lisa Cheng Lai-sho, 24, is considered Hong Kong’s top female athlete. She has recently won the Cheung Chau bun scrambling title in the women’s division, a competition in which contestants climb a 14-metre tower studded with buns and grab as many buns as they can. For the past eight years, Cheng has won first place in the Hong Kong Women’s Speed Climbing competition, and for the past six years, she has consistently won the Hong Kong Miss Body Fitness title. She was proclaimed the 2006 Miss Asian Fitness, the 2010 Asian Women Model Physique and the 2010 World Women Model Physique champion. It is a tall order for Hong Kong athletes to make a living, especially those competing in non-elite sports. But this has not discouraged Cheng. She continues to look for ways to get better. 

How did you get started in sports?

When I was 12, I was brought to a climbing wall in a community centre. To my surprise, I was able to climb up the walls easily, beating several guys. I realised it was something I could do well. I put a lot of effort into it and eventually won awards and trophies. I was later introduced to bodybuilding by my rock-climbing coach and I did well in that, too. 

What is your ultimate goal in sports?

I think I am pretty satisfied with my achievements in sports, after winning all those competitions. But there is one more thing that I hope to achieve. I want to win the Miss Fitness World championship. Right now I am training for gymnastics because the Miss Fitness competition focuses on grace and flexibility. I will continue to join competitions.  I love to compete.   

How do you support yourself?

I work as a personal trainer and part-time physical education lecturer at the Institute of Vocational Education (IVE). I also appear on television to demonstrate effective workout routine.  I write columns for newspapers and magazines on how to keep fit. Recently, I received some endorsement deals from health products and sports appeal. I also spend a lot of time doing media interviews and appearing in events as a celebrity. I recently went to the Hong Kong Book Fair and read to children for a celebrity storytelling session.  I am an ambassador for Plan International, a charity that helps children. 

How do you manage your time? 

I plan my day carefully. My schedule is jam-packed with training, work and public appearances. I seldom get the chance to dine with my family because I am always on training. If someone wants to have an appointment with me, I will not say yes unless I am 100 per cent sure that I am available. 

What are your plans? 

I plan to become an action movie star, and be the next Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng.  It is not my ultimate goal but something I want to pursue in my life. I am learning Muay Thai, judo and mixed martial arts.  I use various kinds of weapons to prepare myself. I have what it takes to be a kung fu star because I keep myself in top shape.  Moreover, I need to master English to get into the entertainment sector. I spend two to three hours in English tutorials everyday. 

What inspires you to aim higher?

I love to see myself improve. Whether it is in sports or in life, every accomplishment inspires me to work harder. Whatever I do, I give 100 per cent. It is physically and mentally demanding to spend long hours in the gym, but I have convinced myself that it is nothing and I will get used to it. I have a strong desire for improvement and I always want to raise the bar higher and push my self to new limits. 

What is your advice to those who want to be professional athletes?

Never give up your studies. You may excel in sports but you will go nowhere in a knowledge-based society like Hong Kong if you don’t study. I scored only three points in HKCEE but I went on to pursue a diploma in leisure studies at IVE and a degree in leisure management through distant learning. I discovered that as an athlete, there’s so much theory and knowledge to learn aside from training. Don’t give up your studies because of sports. 

What kind of impression do you want to leave with the public?

I want people to remember me as Spider Woman and a multitalented person. I love setting goals and working on them. I also want to encourage people to set goals and attain them.

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