Lee's win set to inspire cycling boom
Olympic bronze-medal winner Lee Wai-sze will inspire thousands to take up cycling, especially with the HK$600 million Tseung Kwan O velodrome opening next year, coach Shen Jinkang predicted yesterday.
The 25-year-old shot to fame on Friday night when she came third in the women's keirin final at the London Games - winning only the third Olympic medal for Hong Kong since their first participation at the 1952 Helsinki Games, and first in cycling.
'This is not the end of the story,' Shen said. 'I'm sure Lee's bronze medal success will inspire thousands of youngsters to take up cycling, as it proves Hong Kong athletes can now win an Olympic medal in the sport.
'With the completion of Hong Kong's first velodrome next year, when our riders will no longer have to train on the mainland, I am confident the sport will have a good future. Before we could only focus on a few track cycling events because we did not have a big squad. This is going to change in the next couple of years.'
The Tseung Kwan O velodrome was first planned after Hong Kong cyclists won two gold medals at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
'This is a great moment for Hong Kong,' said an elated Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, of Lee's performance. 'She has done us proud and she showed a lot of courage, coming from behind after losing in the first heat.'
Lee showed great mental strength after a slow start to the event to win her repechage (a heat used in keirin giving cyclists a second chance to reach the next stage), qualify for the final, then mix it with the best to finish third behind Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton, dubbed 'Queen Victoria' by the English media, and China's Guo Shuang.
'I never panicked, even though it was not the best start, because I knew I had the quality to win through the repechage,' said Lee, a devout Christian who started full-time training in 2004 after finishing secondary school.
'Before the final, I thought I could win because I have beaten the five others before, but I knew I had to settle for third place after going into the last bend.
'This is an important race because it has proven I am among the best in the world. Hong Kong athletes should try their best and they can also be as successful as me.'
She put her name alongside Hong Kong's other Olympic heroes - windsurfer Lee Lai-shan and table tennis pair Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak. The medal will also bring Lee Wai-sze benefits, including a cash reward of HK$750,000 through the Hang Seng Athlete Incentive Awards Scheme.