Lee backed to bring home gold in 2016
Cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze can turn bronze into gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang predicted yesterday.
Just two days after her bronze medal winning performance in the keirin, Lee, 25, could only manage 10th place in the sprint, failing to live up to heightened expectations.
Even though Shen was disappointed by the result, he is confident it will be a different story, even a golden one, in four years' time.
'She has plenty of room for improvement in both the keirin and sprint, and by the time Rio de Janeiro comes around, she will be at her peak age for cycling, like those who are challenging for a sprint medal here,' Shen said. 'In London, our focus has been put on the keirin, with a top eight position in the sprint. We came very close to reaching the target, as Lee still has to improve in a number of areas.
'Physically, her upper body muscles are still not strong enough so she cannot accelerate in a quick span of time to attack and get past her opponents, as other top riders do. And tactically, she still needs to learn more and be more confident on how to combat others in the one-against-one situations in the sprint.
'The London Olympics is just the beginning, a baptism for her at a major games. With many more competitions over the next four years, including 16 world cups and four world championships, she has the opportunity and potential to turn herself into a really top-class sprinter on the track.'
Shen lodged an appeal against Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez of Cuba, who beat Lee in the 1/8 final, for blocking Lee's path in the bend leading to the final sprint, but the referee only gave the Cuban a warning.
'Lee's preparation for the repechage was affected by the appeal as she thought we had won the case and there was no need to race,' the coach said. 'Mentally she was a bit relaxed and not ready for the repechage. But we had no excuse.
'Lee is still learning about how to cope with different situations on the world stage and this cannot be done without more international exposure.'
Lee could not hide her disappointment after the race. 'Under normal circumstances, I can finish in the top three in the 200-metre flying lap qualifying race for the sprint, but I only managed seventh place, which put me in an unfavourable situation in the following rounds,' she said. 'I came to London with a place in the sprint quarter-finals as my target and I'm disappointed.'
Lee then finished 10th overall in the race for ninth-to-12th position.
She also revealed she had considered quitting after completing the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, but the bronze medal had changed that thinking.
Lee, who first started full-time sports training in 2004 after completing secondary school, said: 'I always thought there should be a new chapter in life after 10 years and it may be the right time to move on to other things after the next Asian Games.
'But now that plan will likely be changed and I will stay for a longer period in sport. As an Olympic medallist, I know there is role to play, raising the status of sports in Hong Kong. I know I can influence other people through sports and I am very happy to do this.'
Teammate Choi Ki-ho was also targeting the Rio Games after finishing 16th in the men's omnium, which consisted of 18 riders.
'I am not too disappointed as all the riders are top class,' said Choi, 21. 'This is my first Olympics and I have learnt a lot. I will come back at the next Games, though I may not be in track competitions.'
Choi, who won the yellow jersey in the 2011 Tour of Korea, said he wanted to become the next Wong Kam-po in the road race, although there is strong competition for that position.
'We have many potential riders in the squad and everyone wants to become the new-generation, road race star,' he said. 'I have a strong passion for the road race and I will discuss my future plans with the coach after the Games.'
Wong, who represented Hong Kong in the road race in London and finished a commendable 37th place, is about to fade out from the sport at the age of 39.