Winner of the Coach of the Year Award, Shen Jinkang, has challenged his charge Sarah Lee Wai-sze to make the necessary improvements if the cyclist wants to stay competitive at the world's highest level.
Shen won the top honour at yesterday's annual Hongkong Bank Foundation Coaching Awards presentation thanks largely to Lee's bronze medal in the women's keirin at the London Olympic Games last year.
Other winners included wheelchair fencing coach Wang Ruiji (senior athletes, team event), badminton coach Tim He Yiming (junior athletes, team event) and wushu coach Wong Chi-kwong (junior athletes, individual sport), while Dai Rees (rugby union) won the Best Team Coach Award.
Eight months after Lee's major breakthrough in London, Shen now wants to see further improvement from the track star, especially over 200 metres. "The 200 metres is a pre-requisite for all sprinting events and she must show she can ride under 11 seconds, not only on some occasions, but on a regular basis," said Shen. "If she can achieve this, she will hold an advantage over other top-class riders.
"But this is not going to be easy because Lee's standard is already world class and there is very little room for improvement. She needs to put in a lot of hard work and effort in order to achieve this desperately needed cutting edge to make her stay ahead of others. We also need the expertise and knowledge of sports scientists to help Lee improve her fitness level."
Lee and her fellow riders are already preparing for next year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Hong Kong won eight gold medals at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou three years ago, half of them in cycling.
"South Korea is a strong cycling nation and we will face a fierce battle at the next Asian Games," Shen said. "We have already set up training squads in various disciplines such as the four-kilometre team pursuit, sprinting events and road races. We must improve to win medals again and these improvements will not come overnight. That's why we have started our preparations so early."
Shen was happy to see Lee back in Hong Kong yesterday without serious injuries after a crash at the All-China championships series in Changxing, Zhejiang province, on Friday.
"It is not uncommon to see crashes in top-level competitions, but luckily Lee did not suffer any major injuries this time after she fell on the track during the race and spent one night in the hospital as a precautionary measure," said Shen. "It is always the blood, sweat and tears of athletes that help a coach win an honour and I felt very sorry when I saw her fall in Changxing."
Lee was supposed to join her coach at yesterday's presentation, but stayed home to rest.
Having won the Coach of the Year award six times since he came to Hong Kong in 1994, Shen, 60, now wants to work on a succession plan, hinting strongly that former star cyclist Wong Kam-po could be the perfect candidate.
"It is a challenging job for Wong but I am confident he can handle it well," said Shen.
"He was a very successful athlete and now he has to pass his skills and experience to the younger generation.
"While we need young athletes to take up the baton, we also need new coaches coming through to help train these athletes. Wong is the best choice and I hope he can take up my position one day and stand on the stage as a winner of the coaching award."