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Chi Wai Lai: Climbing a Different Mountain – in Wheelchair

Once a “Spiderman”, still a “Spiderman”! And bun-scrambling…

Once a “Spiderman”, still a “Spiderman”! And bun-scrambling…

While thinking about living with spinal cord injury or in a wheelchair, people’s first thought could be that they have to give up on many things or worse: “many have given up on me!”. If you think like that, here is yet another “inspiring” story to change your mind: meet Chi Wai Lai – the paraplegic athlete from Hong Kong.

Lai had his first popularity as a rock climber. He once was among the top 10 professional rock climbers in the world and was the first Chinese winner of the Asian X-Game Climbing Competition. Most Hong Kongers know him as “Spiderman” as he was a frequent participant and former champion of Cheung Chau bun-scrambling competition (read on to find out more about this special culture-meet-sport competition).

However, in 2011, Lai ended up losing the mobility of his lower body due to a car accident. And yes, you guess it right: Lai did not give up his passion on sports despite the physical limitations. He did not only start climbing again but also began working as a full-time coach for the Hong Kong sports climbing team. He also tried on new sports such as wheelchair boxing.

He truly lives the Lion Rock Spirit – one of the core Hong Kong values, i.e. to live with “perseverance and solidarity”. When I mean “truly”, he does not only live with that positive spirit but climbed Lion Rock, one of the most remarkable mountains in Hong Kong, to mark the fifth year of his life-changing accident. In all this, Lai’s family is his major spiritual support.

The remarkable Lion Rock. (Photo source: HKU Bulletin)

Read the original news stories about Chi Wai Lai with photos and videos of his extraordinary climbing experiences:

As promised, what is the Cheung Chau bun-scrambling competition? This event is held annually around May as part of the traditional Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, which is listed as one of the intangible cultural heritages of Hong Kong. During the competition, contestants have to climb an approximately 14 meters tall mountain made of Chinese buns and take as many buns with them as possible within three minutes – the buns on top carry more points than the ones below.

Climb a different mountain – the mountain of buns! Special training needed to avoid spinal cord or any kind of injuries! (Photo source: Hong Kong Tourism Board)

This competition is said to be originated from the 18th century. Around that time, Cheung Chau, the outlying island in Hong Kong, was greatly affected by pandemic. Many deceased and it is said that the pandemic only ended with the help of the “Dark Heavenly Highest Deity”. To thank the deity, the Cheung Chau citizens organized the Jiao Festival, where people dressed up as deities pretending to drive away the pandemic evils.

During the Jiao Festival, three mountains of Ping On Bun (or “lucky” buns) were built for people to receive their blessings. In tradition, the more buns you get from the bun mountains, the more fortunate you become. However, this activity went tragic. In 1978, one of the bun mountains collapsed when over 300 people were rushing to scramble their “lucky” buns leaving 24 people seriously injured. Since then, the bun-scrambling event was forbidden until 2005, when the activity was transformed to a safer bun-scrambling competition allowing only 12 contestants to climb the towers of buns and compete simultaneously.

The “lucky” bun. (Photo source: Hong Kong Tourism Board)

At the moment, this annual bun-scrambling competition only opens to Hong Kong citizens. However, all are welcome to witness this exciting sport activity and experience the culture and traditions of Jiao Festival. If you are planning your next trip to Hong Kong around May, don’t miss it!

For more information about the Jiao Festival of Cheung Chau, please visit:

Have you got SCI sport stories and recommendations to share? No matter it’s in Switzerland or somewhere else, the Community would love to know, so share with us!

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