Sarah Lee faces mainland rival Lin Junhong in sprint semi-final of Asian Championships
Hong Kong’s golden girl is looking to avenge her loss on home turf two weeks ago when she faces down Chinese sprinter in best-of-three race in Japan
Sarah Lee Wai-sze is seeking revenge against Lin Junhong of China as the two world-class sprinters are heading for a semi-final showdown at the Asian Championships in Japan on Friday.
Both riders have reached the women’s sprint semi-finals at the Izu velodrome, designated venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, and will have to win at least two of the three three-lap races to reach the final.
At the last round of the UCI Track World Cup series in Hong Kong two weeks ago, the mainlander prevailed after taking out Lee in the best-of-three final.
The race will also be a repeat of last year’s regional championships final in Thailand when Lee outclassed her mainland rival to clinch the gold medal.
“This will be an exciting race, definitely,” said Hong Kong Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak. “Lee has the upper hand against Lin, but her form failed to materialise in the World Cup in front of her home crowd. She will be eager to gain revenge to make up for the loss in Hong Kong.
“The race will be close as the records have shown. In a sprint event like this, some minor details will make the difference as it’s always difficult to predict the result.”
The semi-final is a best-of-three contest, with competitors completing three laps on the 250-metre track for three races. The average speed of the last 200 metres will exceed 60km/h in the dash to the finish.
Lee was said to be too passive against Lin in the World Cup series final and Leung believed coach Shen Jinkang would employ a different set of tactics at the Izu velodrome.
“Some adjustments will need to be made,” said Leung, a former rider. “If she can win the first race, Lee would have a great chance.”
Even if Lee makes it to the final, she will face another daunting task to capture the gold medal as Guo Shuang, another top sprinter from the mainland, is likely to beat Lee Hye-jin of South Korea in the other semi-final.
Guo is the overall sprint champion from the World Cup series.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong collected two more silver medals on Thursday after Cheung King-lok sorely missed a third gold in the men’s points race. The other silver medal came from Yang Qianyu when she placed second in the women’s 3km individual pursuit.
After snatching a spectacular double on the road, Cheung will now have to wait until Friday for a chance to snatch gold medal number three when he starts in the individual pursuit.
Cheung, who turns 25 next week, said he had become the target of other riders in the 40km points race, making it difficult for him to break away.
“It was a tough race as they all kept a close eye on me,” he said. “Also, my fitness level dropped a bit after taking part in the team pursuit the day before.
“But this is a good lesson as I must learn how to cope with the situation better when it happens again in future. Nonetheless, a silver medal isn’t a bad result.”
Cheung’s speed has made him a formidable rider in events against the clock. He won Hong Kong’s first road time-trial gold medal in the regional championships last week. He also came second in the individual pursuit at the last Asian Championships.
“I really look forward to the individual pursuit and will try my best to win a third gold medal,” he said.