Sprinter Lee faces big test against world-class field

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:54pm


Let others make the predictions, I don't need the distraction. That is the approach of Hong Kong sprint cyclist Lee Wai-sze, who has been in lockdown mode since her arrival in London as she hones her final preparations.

The real test comes today at the Velopark inside the London Olympic Park when Lee (pictured) competes against a group of more experienced and world-class sprinters in the women's keirin.

While Britain's Victoria Pendleton remains favourite, Australia's Anna Meares, Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania and Lee's mainland counterpart, Guo Shuang, are all strong candidates for the podium positions.

The 25-year-old Lee caught the sprinting world by surprise in February when she clinched a silver medal in the keirin at a World Cup series event held at the same venue as a London Olympic Games test event.

She first drew international attention at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou when she clinched a gold medal with an Asian record in the 500-metre time trial - a sprint event that is not part of this Olympic programme - beating Guo into second place.

'She needs peace of mind and must not speak too much to protect her throat because it is vulnerable to infection after high-intensity training,' said coach Shen Jinkang. 'Her form is getting better and better since her arrival in London and the only things she needs to do is to deliver on race day.

'The venue is very good and she is used to it after the test event a couple of months ago. It's going to be a tough race for Lee. She has the ability to win a medal - a pair of powerful legs and, most important, a strong mind. If she attacks at the right time from the right place, she will be fine.'

The keirin is a mass-start race with riders required to remain behind a pacer, which leaves the track after five laps. The first cyclist to finish the eight-lap, two-kilometre race is the winner.

There will be 18 riders in the three-round competition. Six will be in the final after the first two rounds and the repechages.

Keirin was introduced at the 2000 Sydney Games with only a men's race. This is the first time a women's race is being contested at the Olympics.

'It is difficult to find Olympic reference as this is a new event for the women,' said the coach. 'Judging from Lee's recent form and performance, she is one of the medal contenders, but whether she can make it or not, it really depends on how she performs on the day as there are a lot of uncertainties when six women are sprinting for the finish on a tight track.'

At the 2008 Beijing Games, only the women's individual sprint was held as a sprinting event and it was won by Pendleton. Meares and Guo came second and third respectively.