Kwok Ho-ting and Sarah Lee among six Hong Kong gold winners
2011 scratch world champion leads riders to first place in the team pursuit as Olympic bronze medallist Sarah Lee wins time trial on first day of Hong Kong International Cup meeting
Kwok Ho-ting rode through lower back pain to steer his men's pursuit team to a gold medal on the opening day of the Hong Kong International Cup at the Tseung Kwan O velodrome.
Competing in his first race after October's East Asian Games in Tianjin, Kwok let no one down when he led his riders to victory over Japan in the four-kilometre final in four minutes, 12.093 seconds. The Japanese were five seconds behind in 4:17.501.
"There have been some problems with my back since the East Asian Games, but fortunately it did not affect my performance too much," said Kwok, who had a precautionary MRI last night. "But my form is still not yet at its best after such a long break and hopefully I can get better as the season goes on."
Kwok, a scratch race world champion in 2011, considered quitting the sport after the Tianjin Games, but he had a change of heart and rejoined the Hong Kong team in mid-December.
The 25-year-old and his pursuit team members, Leung Chun-wing and Cheung King-lok, will head to the World Cup series in Mexico next week, while the fourth rider Cheung King-wai will remain in Hong Kong.
Earlier yesterday, Hong Kong saw success in the first of the UCI class one events with four more gold medals.
London Olympic medallist Sarah Lee Wai-sze lived up to expectations when she clinched the women's 500-metre time trial, finishing the two-lap race in 34.68 seconds.
"I felt a bit tense as this was the first time we raced here," said Lee, who put on her "rainbow jersey" as the reigning world champion of the event. "The result is not too bad considering the windy conditions, but it could be better if there are more fans to cheer for us. I hope more people will come to support us during the weekend."
Coach Shen Jinkang was also pleased with her performance, although the strength of her opponents was not that high.
"She has never reached 34 seconds when training at this venue and that's why I am satisfied," he said. "Indeed, I could see Lee work very hard and perhaps she knew there were great expectations from the fans.
"China did not send their best rider to this event as they intend to strive for world ranking points in the sprint and keirin to qualify for the World Cup. Lee will have tough races in these two events in the next two days."
The hosts won three more gold medals in the event, which features more than 100 international riders.
In the women's 4km team pursuit, the quartet of Jamie Wong Wan-yiu, Yang Qianyu, Meng Zhaojuan and Peng Yao came first in the qualifiers of a 16-lap race and then surpassed the Shandong team in the final with four laps left.
"This is a new combination and we are happy to win the gold," said Wong. "There is always room for improvement and, given more time, I am sure we can raise our level to compete against top teams."
Other women gold medal winners were Diao Xiaojuan in the 10km scratch race, Esther Fung Yuk-ki (38.956 seconds) in the junior 500-metre time trial and Leung Wing-yee in the junior individual pursuit.