Cyclist Sarah Lee poised to sweep Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards

World champion track cyclist is expected to dominate the annual prize-giving competition tonight, but the HK heroine isn't celebrating yet

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 4:27am

There used to be an air of mystery when the "Best of the Best" category was introduced to the Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards in 2006; tonight, in the plush surroundings of the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, it is an open secret who the winner will be: Olympic bronze medallist, world champion and multiple Asian champion Sarah Lee Wai-sze.

But the track cyclist, who will take time out from her busy schedule to attend the ceremony, was keen to play down her chances yesterday. "The awards are a recognition of all the hard work that Hong Kong athletes have put in not over just the past year, but also for many years before. I'm not too concerned about winning the top award. Just being nominated is reward enough," she said after returning from New Delhi, India, where she won two gold medals at the Asian championships.

The only other time Lee won an award at the annual presentation was in 2010, when she was recognised as one of four athletes with serious potential.

Fast forward two years, and Lee has more than lived up to that recognition. Last year, she won a bronze medal at the London Olympics, only the third time a Hong Kong athlete had stood on the podium at the Games (windsurfer Lee Lai-shan won gold in Atlanta in 1996, while Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak won silver in the table tennis men's doubles in Athens in 2004).

This year, Lee won a gold in the time trial at the world championships in Minsk, Belarus, and last week added two golds at the Asian championships in New Delhi. But the ever modest Lee refused to accept all the credit for her phenomenal success.

"I will attend [tonight's] presentation with my coach Wong Kam-po. He is the real 'Best of the Best' in my eyes," she said.

Wong, who retired late last year to become a coach, won a record three "Best of the Best" awards in 2006, 2007 and 2010. It is believed the organisers will give special recognition to the veteran rider, who turned 40 yesterday, for his contributions to Hong Kong sport over the past two decades.

At the presentation, eight sports stars of year will be announced from 34 candidates (each national sports association is allowed to enter one nomination) after a voting process involving the public, media and a judging panel. The highest vote among these eight will be honoured the "Best of the Best". Each sport star will receive an award of HK$30,000, and an additional HK$50,000 will be awarded to the "Best of the Best" winner.

Athletes who performed well at the Olympic Games will be the top choices for the eight sports stars of the year. Other than Lee, badminton player Yip Pui-yin and table tennis player Jiang Tianyi, who both reached the singles quarter-finals in London, are obvious selections, while two disabled athletes, who won gold medals at the London Paralympics, are also likely recipients. Wheelchair fencer Yu Chui-yee clinched two gold and one bronze at the Paralympics, while table tennis player Wong Ka-man captured one gold.

"Results at the Olympics and Paralympics are important in the course of selection, but we do have athletes who did very well in other international competitions," said Vivien Lau Chiang-chu, chairperson of the awards organising committee. "There is always keen competition among the candidates."

Other favourites include Ng On-yee, who clinched a silver medal at the World Snooker Championships, and wushu practitioner Geng Xiaoling, who won two gold medals at the Asian championships.

The remaining award will be a close battle between windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man, a 12th-place finisher at the London Games, swimmer Sze Hang-yu, who captured a silver medal at the World Cup (short course) in the UAE, and Wu Siu-hong, winner of the men's event at the tenpin bowling Asia tour - Tournament of Champions. But Chan, who competed in London despite having her spleen removed after a training accident prior to the Games, should catch the eyes of the selectors for her bravery.

Tonight's presentation will also reveal winners in five other categories - junior stars awards, team award, team event awards, potential awards and sportsmanship award.