Lee Wai-sze: 'I am so proud to be a Hong Kong athlete'
Hong Kong's celebrated Olympic medallist knew she had the strength to go on, even when her coach suggested she quit after an injury, writes Nora Tong
Lee Wai-sze says receiving the bronze medal for the women's keirin at the 2012 London Olympics was the proudest moment of her life.
"I was touched and overwhelmed to see the Hong Kong flag rising," says the 25-year-old cyclist. "I am so proud to be a Hong Kong athlete and representing the Hong Kong people at the games."
She is only the fourth Hong Kong athlete to win a medal at the Olympics, following Lee Lai-shan's windsurfing gold medal in 1996, and the silver medal that Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak earned for the men's doubles in table tennis in 2004.
Lee, who grew up in a public housing estate in Ngau Tau Kok, got her first break in Form Three when her school recommended her to the Hong Kong Sports Institute that trains and supports young athletes. Lee became a full-time athlete in 2004 and has since earned a string of awards, including a gold medal for the 500m time trial at the 2010 Asian Games and a silver medal for the keirin at the World Track Cup this year.
Lee suffered a major setback in 2006, breaking her left wrist while trying to avoid hitting a dog during a training ride. Despite three operations, she was told that she would never fully recover. Just when the doubts started to creep in and she considered giving up the sport, Lee was introduced to the Christian faith, which has since been a source of strength and support.
"There is nothing greater than the love of Jesus. He isn't motivated by any self-interest. Life should be filled with love," says Lee, who refused to quit after her coach, Shen Jinkang, asked her to reconsider her cycling career following her injury.
"There are bound to be ups and downs in life. Changes are inevitable - just like you can't do anything against ageing. My injury is a minor problem in the grand scheme of things."
Lee trains almost every day, working out and spending long hours on the bicycle, and discussing training routines and tactical approaches with her coach. How to increase her speed, endurance capacity and explosive power are a few of the items on her training agenda. Lee is also a keen reader, absorbing anything that has to do with the latest knowledge in topics related to sport and cycling.
Being a cyclist can be lonely. Lee is blessed to have the support of her coach, her family and friends. "I didn't speak or meet my family and friends during the month before the Olympics," she says. "But they were very understanding. They messaged me regularly and didn't mind that I hardly replied."
Lee is preparing for competitions abroad and she hopes to improve her form and tactics, and gain more experience from the events.
"Life is about making progress, and you have made progress every time you overcome a hurdle," she says. "You need to be confident and believe in yourself."