San San tightens grip on gold as rivals falter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2002, 12:00am

Windsurfer Lee Lai-shan has the gold medal in her sight. The 32-year-old defending champion stormed to victory in all three races held yesterday to move within a sail-breadth of winning the Asian Games title again.

'She is quite firmly in the lead,' said coach Rene Appel. He is the master of understatements. For it will take a typhoon to blow San San off her golden course. With the halfway mark passed, and with just five races to go, the 1996 Olympic champion is well-placed to take home another gold medal.

San San made up for the one race lost on Friday, by winning a hat-trick yesterday. She has now five first-place finishes and one second-place in the six races held. But despite her awesome form, Appel is still refusing to talk about victory.

'If she wins the next three races, then mathematically she would be certain of winning the gold. But until then nothing is clear. Even though she won today, it was not all plain sailing as it was quite close in the first two races,' said Appel.

San San was overtaken by China's Yin Jian in the first race on the downwind leg but managed to overhaul her later and stay in front until the end. In the second race, San San seemed to have lost it to Japanese Masako Imai at the end, but was relieved to find out later that she had won. She led all the way in the third.

'We didn't know what the result of the second race was until we got back to shore. It was very tight and it looked like the Japanese had overtaken her,' said Appel. 'Anything can happen in the next couple of days and we are not celebrating yet.'

Appel, however, feels that San San will be at an advantage today due to her better physical condition. 'She is very fit and I believe she will be able to recover better than the others. Having three races in one day is physically demanding and it takes a lot out of everyone.'

Having reached the halfway mark, competitors have to discard their worst result. San San discarded her second-place finish to have an accumulated total of five points in the overall standings. In second place is Imai with a net score of, 12 while Yin is on 13.

The rules call for another discard after race nine. By then a clearer picture would be available and Appel hopes San San will have to discard a first-place finish. 'If she gets to the stage where she has to discard a first-place finish, then the gold is hers.'

Ho Chi-ho, meanwhile, is still fighting for a medal finish in the men's mistral event. Ho had a 3-5-4 finish yesterday in the three races respectively and is now fourth overall on 15 points. He trails third-placed Japanese Ikao Inoue by one point.

'Ho still has time to finish in the medals. He took a gamble in one race and it failed. But he is going well,' said Appel.

Teenager Chan King-yun also fared creditably in the men's light raceboard. The 19-year-old Chan is in third slot, but well behind leader Ok Duck-pil of South Korea, who has a lead of nine points on Chan. The up-and-coming Hong Kong board sailor had a poor start, fnishing last in the first race of the day, but made amends with two third-place finishes in the next two races.

Nelson Tang continued his struggle in the heavy raceboard event. He finished last in all three races, and is lying at the bottom of the heap.

Youngster Yu Chi-lok did well to have a 7-8-10 finishes in the Optimists Boys class. The 13-year-old Yu, Hong Kong's youngest competitor, is lying in ninth position. Colleagues Tong Ping-shun and Cheung Ka-ho were not as lucky as they bring up the rear of the field in the men's 420 class.