Starting woes mar San San's build-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 June, 2004, 12:00am

Lee Lai-shan's build-up to the Olympics is starting to resemble a rollercoaster ride after she ended fourth in the SPA Regatta in Medemblik, the Netherlands, at the weekend - the last but one major competition before the August 13-29 Athens Games.

Taking part in light wind conditions which the Hong Kong camp expect to be similar to what they might face in Athens, San San teetered between simply brilliant and hugely frustrating as she finished behind three of her main rivals for the gold medal this summer.

San San began the SPA Regatta on a winning note. She also won the last of the nine races on Sunday. But in between were two forgettable starts where she was caught on the wrong side of the starting line when the gun fired, leaving her with a mountain to climb.

'With two OCSs [false starts], her other results will not be good enough to get back into medal position,' predicted Hong Kong coach Rene Appel on the eve of the last day. And he was proved right, for despite winning the last race, San San had to pay for her miscalculations in races two and four.

Windsurfing officials laid the blame on race organisers for getting the starts wrong, pointing to France's Faustine Merret, the eventual regatta winner, who also registered OCSs for both those races.

Although both results were discarded by San San, it left her under tremendous pressure knowing she could not afford another poor result. When San San finished 11th in race seven, her hopes also ended as that poor result had to be taken into account because only two discards are permitted.

But Appel remains confident. 'It was a very useful regatta to practise strategy in similar conditions to what we may encounter in Athens. The next step is the European Championships which begin in Poland this week,' said Appel.

Merret won the SPA Regatta with an aggregate of 15 penalty points. Australian Jessica Crisp was second on 22, while Germany's Amelie Lux was third. San San came in fourth on 24 points from three first-place finishes, a second-place, a third, a fifth and an 11th. Sisters Chan Wai-kei and Chan Wai-man finished eighth and 10th respectively. In the men's race, Ho Chi-ho finished fifth overall, while Chan King-yin was placed 12th.

Hong Kong's Olympic representatives San San and Ho will now accompany Appel to Poland for the European Championships. San San will be hoping to fine-tune her performance before her date with destiny in Athens. And one area of major concern will be her starts.