HK backers rue bad luck that cost Lee her Olympic dream

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2008, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Equestrian Federation yesterday bemoaned the bad luck that forced Jennifer Lee out of the Olympic equestrian events.

Lee's dream of competing in the Games was shattered after her horse, Mr Burns, was withdrawn as the Hong Kong showjumpers were preparing to leave Belgium.

'This is terrible news and unbelievably bad luck,' federation president Simon Ip Sik-on said. 'It must be devastating for Jennifer, especially as she has just renounced her US passport. It is, of course, a major setback for our team, but let's hope that all the other horses stay sound.'

Hong Kong will still be able to compete in the team competition at Sha Tin next month - and as individuals - but Lee's absence means a score in the team competition cannot be dropped. The top three results combine for the team's score.

After Mr Burns required veterinary treatment, Lee withdrew on Sunday night. The Hong Kong horses will arrive next Monday.

'She is a very determined rider,' said Hong Kong Jockey Club equestrian manager Stuart Mitchell, who worked with Lee at Beas River. 'She basically threw her life out there for it, moving to Germany with her kids.'

Peta McAuley, a rider who has known Lee for eight years, said: 'My sympathy goes out to her and I wish the best of luck to the Hong Kong team who are now without her.'

McAuley said Lee's attempt to compete as an Olympian had come at a significant personal cost, but added that Lee had been able to work with some of the world's best trainers and ride horses she might not otherwise have had a chance to compete with.

'At the end of the day, it's almost like causing a scar, but if you rise above it then you can become a more mature rider, a more mature person,' McAuley said. 'Not everyone responds in that way, but there is potential to see it like that.'

Lee notified the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee this month that she had received her Hong Kong passport and was therefore eligible to compete for Hong Kong.

'Others will get to do this again, but for Jennifer to compete at this level, it might be her only possible time,' said Lee's friend, Tara Delaney.