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Olympics Bound!

Olympics Bound!Tufts freshman Christy Ren will represent Hong Kong in Salt Lake City, marking the first time her home country has ever earned a berth in the Winter Olympics.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.13.01] For any athlete, a trip to the Olympics is a dream come true. But for Tufts freshman Christy Ren, the accomplishment is particularly meaningful -- as she and a teammate will be the first athletes ever to represent Hong Kong in a Winter Olympics competition.

"We didn't think we had a chance at the Olympics," said Ren, who will compete in the short track speed skating events. "It was just a dream."

But that changed in October, when Ren and her teammate Cordia Tsoi Po-yee earned an Olympic berth during the qualifier competitions for the 2002 Winter Games.

For Ren, her upcoming trip to Salt Lake City is the culmination of an incredible -- and extremely challenging -- journey.

Introduced just four years ago, speed skating is a very young sport in Hong Kong. And Ren -- formerly a figure skater -- is one of the sport's pioneers in the region.

"Christy practically started the sport of short track speed skating in Hong Kong," said Eva Feng -- president of the Hong Kong Skating Union. "Through her dedicated hard work and determination, Christy together with her teammate have incredibly achieved the Olympic level in such a short time."

But it wasn't easy.

Without a rink to call their own, Ren and her teammate were forced to train in some very unusual circumstances -- often skating among recreational skaters on a public rink.

"The times during which we could skate were limited and we did not even have a standard sized rink," said Ren, who added that the rinks didn't have the protective padding lining the walls considered essential for the high-speed sport. "Last year we were given ice times to skate on the weekend, but on other days we would have to skate during public sessions. In order to beat the crowds, we would go just as the rink opened."

And since enrolling at Tufts in September, Ren has taken on an extra challenge -- balancing her training with the demands of college.

Though she has said her academics come first, Ren has gone to great lengths to keep up her training schedule -- traveling to an ice rink a half-hour's drive outside Boston to skate three times a week.

But the hard work has paid off for Ren, who is about to embark on a training trip to Hong Kong, China and Canada to prepare for the Olympic Games in February.

"[When I first started to speed skate four years ago], going to the Olympics was only a dream," she said. "I didn't expect we would be able to achieve so much in such a short time."

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

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