Cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze warned to forget past glories in hunt for Rio 2016 medal

London 2012 keirin bronze medallist suffers setback against mainland rivals as her coach warns she still has much to learn ahead of Rio Games

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 10:50am

Cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze has been warned to forget about her past glories as she sets off in search of another Olympic medal at Rio 2016.

That quest has begun this week at the National Games as Lee - a bronze medallist in the keirin at the London Olympics - seeks gold in Shenyang to provide her with the momentum to kick off a new era.

But Lee suffered a setback in the individual sprint yesterday, managing only sixth place after failing to make it to the medal race, and her coach Shen Jinkang has urged her to use it as a warning that despite her achievements among the world's best she still has a long way to go.

Lee faces the best the mainland has to offer in the keirin today and they'll be seeking a prized scalp; from a relative unknown before the London Games, she now goes into every event with a target on her back.

"She has to put all these glories behind and start from scratch," said Shen. "The sprint competition proves she still has a lot to learn, especially on the use of tactics during competitions where a small mistake will change the result.

"In fact, she was a bit tense before the competition as she has been going well in recent years and has become other riders' target to beat. That's why she did not even make it to the last four to compete for a medal.

"And the keirin race will be tougher again as she will face the best sprinters from [mainland] China. If she can't beat the mainlanders, how can she achieve another Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 when the competition will be more difficult?"

Lee has been drawn in group three in the keirin opening round where she will take on tough opponents such as Zhong Tianshi of Shanghai, Lin Junhong of Heilongjiang and Gong Jinjie of Jilin.

Zhong is the world record holder in the 200 metres, a prerequisite for sprinting events on the track, while Lin won yesterday's sprint after defeating Olympic bronze medallist Guo Shuang in the gold medal race. Gong is Guo's partner in the team sprint, in which the duo won silver at the London Olympics.

There are 21 riders in the keirin with seven in each group. The top two from each group go through to the next round, while two more can also make it through the repechage.

"Of course, winning a medal is important at the National Games but more importantly I want Lee to become a stronger rider through the experience here," said the coach. "Her ultimate target is the next Olympic Games."

Among Lee's opponents, Zhong said the Hong Kong rider was one of the sprinters she feared most.

"She is very strong, especially in the final stages of a race and it will be very difficult to catch her from behind," said Zhong, 22, who won a bronze medal in the sprint yesterday.

In the women's omnium, Diao Xiaojuan was fourth after completing the first three disciplines yesterday, while Kwok Ho-ting was sixth in the men's.

"Both did very well today and if they can have a good race in the scratch [today], they may have a medal chance," said Shen. "Diao could have done better in the elimination race but her front wheel clashed with another rider during the competition, preventing her from getting a better position.

"Kwok was excellent in both the points race and elimination race where he finished second and third respectively.

"He has decided to put in more effort in the omnium and if he can improve his explosive power, which we are quite certain, he certainly has a very good future in the event."

The omnium is like heptathlon in track and field where cyclists have to compete in six disciplines on the track. There are three more events left today before the title is decided.