Reel, Chi Cheng (1944—)

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Reel, Chi Cheng (1944—)

Taiwanese-American track-and-field star. Name variations: Chi Cheng; Mrs. Vincent Reel. Born on March 15, 1944, in Isinchu, Taiwan; married Vince Reel (a track coach).

Broke world records at 100 yards, 100 meters, 220 yards, and 200 meters; named Woman Athlete of the Year (1970); became a coach at Redlands University in Redlands, California.

Chi Cheng Reel was born in Isinchu, Taiwan, in 1944. Her interest in competitive racing began there, in junior high school. Always fast in the children's games that were played in nearby rice paddies and in provincial races, she showed great skill as a sprinter. Vince Reel, an American track-and-field coach, discovered Chi Cheng's talent at the 1962 Asian Games in Taiwan, after she had begun to train in earnest. He convinced her to come to the United States to train with him. In 1964, she made the Olympic team representing Taiwan. That summer in the Tokyo Olympics, while running dead even against the Russian star Galina Bystrova , Chi Cheng hit a hurdle and broke her thigh. The injury prevented her further competition and ended that year's hopes for the Taiwanese.

Chi Cheng had surgery on her knee in 1967 and endured pulled muscles in both legs in 1968, but she continued her training. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, she placed third in the hurdles and seventh at 100 meters. By 1970, her legs had healed and her speed had become increasingly apparent. That year, she set world records at 100 yards, 100 meters, 220 yards, and 200 meters, and clocked 10.0 seconds at Portland, Oregon, on June 13, 1970, for the first "even time" 100 yards. She broke or equaled seven world records and lost only one race. Then in December 1970, a knee injury coupled with a snapping hip removed her from competition.

Chi Cheng was named Women Athlete of the Year in 1970, but her pain made even walking difficult. Returning to Taiwan for surgery, she spent 52 days in the hospital. When she returned to America, her running days were over; she first had to learn to walk. Once recovered, Chi Cheng became a track-and-field coach at Redlands University in Redlands, California, with her former coach Vince Reel, now her husband.

Karin L. Haag , freelance writer, Athens, Georgia