Gold-medal joy for HK cycling star
Chan Kin-wa in Guangzhou
Track cyclist Lee Wai-sze gave Hong Kong a perfect start to the 16th Asian Games, breaking the Asian record and beating defending champion Guo Shuang of China to win the women's 500-metres time trial at the Guangzhou velodrome yesterday.
The 23-year-old completed the two-lap race in 33.945 seconds, bettering an eight-year-old Asian record of 34 seconds set by mainlander Jiang Yonghua.
'I could not believe I had achieved such a time when I came down from the bike,' said Lee, who has been training full-time for six years in track sprinting events. 'It was an excellent time, as I thought I managed only 34 to 35 seconds. But still, I thought I might lose the race as Guo was the last one to start behind me.
'In the end, she managed a time that fell short of mine, and everything felt like a dream come true.'
Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang and other backroom staff surrounded Lee, showering her with congratulations for her brilliant performance after it became clear she had beaten Guo.
'The training leading to the Asian Games was very tough, and I once even considered quitting,' said Lee, who suffered a broken wrist during training in 2006 that stopped her from competing for almost a year. 'But all my hard work and effort paid off today.'
Guo, who won a bronze medal in the sprint at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, settled for silver with a time of 34.125 seconds, while Hsiao Mei-yu of Taiwan, a silver medallist at the Doha Games four years ago, was third in a race contested by 10 top sprinters from the region.
Lee will receive a cash award of HK$400,000 under the Hang Seng Bank awards scheme, which she said she would give to her mother.
'I owe my mother a lot because I spend most of my time training in China,' said Lee, who is based in Shenzhen for training with the rest of the Hong Kong team. 'Whenever I come home, I can only spare time for a quick meal with her before leaving again. She is over 60 and I always feel sad about not spending more time with her.'
Coach Shen said he, too, had been surprised by Lee's result. 'We had expected a bronze medal under normal circumstances, or perhaps a silver if she could perform at her best. After all, Guo is a more accomplished rider,' Shen said.
'But Guo did not look that sharp today, as her first lap wasn't so fast. Lee has broken the 34-second mark a couple of times in training, and I am happy to see her achieve this in a big competition like the Asian Games.'
Shen acknowledged that Lee still had a long way to go before becoming a world-class cyclist. 'She is still learning about the many aspects of the sport, and we have to give her more time and do it stage by stage,' he said.
Having captured an Asian Games gold medal, Lee now sets her sights on qualifying for the Olympic Games in two years. 'Time trials are not on the Olympic programme any more, but there are still some other sprinting events, such as the sprint and keirin,' she said. 'In fact, the time trial is also going be scrapped in the World Cup Classic series soon, so I am happy to have won the time trial here.'
Lee had four world No 1 titles under her belt - sprint, team sprint, keirin and time trial - before the Asian Games, but because she had spent so much time training for Guangzhou, she now has only her top spot in the time trial.
'I like keirin, and hopefully I can do well in the discipline,' she said.
Lee renews her battle with Guo at the velodrome today when they both start in the sprint qualifying round.
Cyclist Lee Wai-sze's time of 33.945 seconds beat an Asian record that had not changed in this many years: 8