Hong Kong has sibling rivalry to thank for its top female marathoner.
Maggie Chan didn't start running at age 9 to become a world-class athlete she simply wanted to beat her older sister, Amanda, to the finish line. So little Maggie ran in her first organized race without a day of training, competing against Amanda and other older girls.
She logged a top-10 finish.
"I realized I was pretty good at running distances," she said.
The LDS athlete, now 28, has kept her toes buried in running shoes ever since, competing in the junior ranks then representing her country in international meets. She'll make her second appearance in the Olympics next month in Athens.
While competing for Hong Kong in the Commonwealth Games in 1994, Maggie Chan's talent caught the eye of BYU cross-country coach Patrick Shane. She knew little about Utah and even less about the Church. But Maggie accepted Coach Shane's scholarship offer and enrolled at BYU.
"I was an atheist; I didn't want to learn much about (religion)," she recalled.
A food science major, Maggie enrolled in the school's required religion courses and occasionally attended Church meetings with friends. She remembers feeling impressed by the examples and testimonies of many on campus. At the same time, she was feeling incomplete and unsatisfied with herself. During her senior year, she agreed to hear the discussions, going to Coach Shane's house to meet with the missionaries.
"Four months later I was baptized."
The new member wrapped up her collegiate career finishing seventh in the 5,000 meter race in the NCAA Championships.
Dramatic changes in her personal life soon followed. Shortly after graduating, Maggie began dating Brent Roper, a returned missionary who had served in Hong Kong. They married Aug. 5, 2000, in the Salt Lake Temple.
Weeks after the wedding, Sister Chan-Roper competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. She qualified for the 2004 Games after securing a 2-hour-35-minute run in the 2004 Salt Lake City Marathon just months after becoming a mother. The Ropers' son, Skyler, is almost 9 months old now.
Sister Chan-Roper is thrilled to have the chance to compete in Greece, birthplace of the Olympics.
"I think it will be cool to run on the original course from Marathon to Athens."
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