Just perfect - San San off to a flier

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2002, 12:00am

Lee Lai-shan's smile was as wide as the Bay of Pusan after she won the two opening races in the women's mistral event to begin her gold medal title defence on the best possible note yesterday. 'I'm feeling good. The conditions were good out there,' said a happy San San as she hosed the salt water off her raceboard.

Both her wins were emphatic. She was hardly threatened all day and only trailed briefly in the first race. But it was still too early to celebrate because with nine more races to go, anything could happen, said coach Rene Appel. 'It was definitely a good start for San San. But it is still early in the competition and it is not a time to be complacent,' warned Appel. 'Two good wins today, but there is a lot of work to be done before we can start celebrating.'

San San, the 1996 Olympic gold medallist, was closely followed by Japan's Masako Imai, who finished second on both occasions and has a net score of four to San San's two. In third place was China's Yin Jian.

'The two girls from Japan and China will be the biggest concern over the next few days. And of course we will have to watch out for the conditions, which are made tricky as the course is close to the headland which results in strong currents. So decisions have to be made whether to go with the strong currents or with the winds. It will be interesting,' said Appel.

There was also good news from the men's mistral light event where Ho Chi-ho finished second overall. The former world junior champion had a great first race when he finished second to Japan's Ikao Inoue. But the 21-year-old Ho failed in his gamble to catch up on the leaders in the second race and fell behind to finish fourth.

Hong Kong officials later filed a protest saying the Japanese sailor had collided with Ho, but it was thrown out as there were no witnesses. Ho finished tied in joint-second place with two other sailors while Thai Arun Homraruen, who had a third and second-place finish, was the overall leader by a single point.

In the men's raceboard light event, Hong Kong's Chan King-yin finished fourth overall after second and fifth-place finishes. In the heavy event Nelson Tang Luen-chun trailed at the end of the field after two fifth-place finishes. 'It was a day of mixed results. San San did well while Ho and Chan proved that they can be in with a shout. And it was not Nelson's day today,' said Appel.

San San meanwhile has the luxury of knowing that her great start will put pressure on her opponents, who will be forced to take their chances from now on. With competitors allowed to discard their worst two results after 11 races, San San is in a good position and can dictate terms as she goes for gold.