Naming arena after her too early, says champion Hong Kong cyclist Lee Wai-sze

Despite her successes, newly crowned world champion insists calls to name HK's new velodrome after her are premature

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 5:25am

Newly crowned world champion Sarah Lee Wai-sze insists calls for Hong Kong's new velodrome in Tseung Kwan O to be named after her are premature, despite her most recent success at the world's highest level.

The 25-year-old track sprinter returned yesterday from Minsk, Belarus, where she won gold and bronze in the women's time trial and sprint respectively - the best achievement yet by any Hong Kong cyclist in a world event. Lee also won a bronze at the London Olympic Games last summer, Hong Kong's third Olympics medal.

Asked if she would like to see the new facility named after her, like the Commonwealth Games' Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Scotland, Lee said she had a long way to go to deserve such an honour.

"I did think about it when I went to London last year, that it would be wonderful if Hong Kong could have a velodrome named after me," she said at the airport yesterday.

I did think about it when I went to London last year, that it would be wonderful if Hong Kong could have a velodrome named after me

"But then I thought it would not be fair to other Hong Kong cyclists as they have also made major contributions to the sport. And the most important thing is I have yet to achieve the same degree of success as Sir Chris.

"I would definitely be proud of it if it happens, but I don't think it should become true now or in the next few years as I still need to achieve more success. In the end, it's up to the authorities to make such a decision."

Scot Hoy is the most successful Olympic cyclist of all time, having won six golds and one silver over three Games.

The HK$600 million Tseung Kwan O venue is due to open later this year and Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang says that will be a huge step as his team target a gold medal at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The coach said Lee's failure to win a medal in the keirin in Minsk - the event in which she won Olympic bronze - would inspire his charge to improve still further.

"She did very well in the first two rounds, but wasted an opportunity to attack in the final, waiting for the chance on the outside lane," said Shen.

"It just proves there are a lot of uncertainties in the discipline and she needs to learn more about strategy, even if she has won Olympic bronze. I hope this will be a good lesson in her build-up to the Rio Games."

Lee was fourth in the keirin and admitted she was too eager to win.

"I had two good races in the first two rounds, but in the final I was under pressure and could not keep my head cool because I wanted to win it too much," she said. "But it did give me a good learning opportunity and I am sure there is plenty of room for improvement.

"Indeed, winning a gold and a bronze medal at a world championships is already a dream come true and will push me to work harder for future success."

Lee's next target, with the rest of the 26-member Hong Kong squad, is the Asian Championships in New Delhi, India, from March 7 to 17.

"The Asian event will serve as an internal selection for the National Games this summer and the Asian Games in Incheon next year," said Shen. "We are in the top Asian level in many of the events and we should be able to return with some medals."

Hong Kong topped the medal tally at last year's Asian Championships with six gold, three silver and four bronze, beating rivals China into second place.

Veteran Wong Kam-po, who won the road race last year, will start as a coach for the first time after he retired from competing. He said settling into the new role had been easy - apart from getting used to his new title.

"I knew I would take up a coaching role one day as I love to continue in the sport," he said. "I will do my best to pass on my experience and help them pursue excellence at the highest level.

"The only thing I feel uncomfortable about is my former coach Shen now keeps calling me Coach Wong, but fortunately the riders still recognise me as 'Ah Po'."