Forget Sarah Lee hype – Chinese sprinters are faster than ever, says mainland track coach Benoit Vetu

Frenchman says it will take a strong rider to beat his riders at the Rio sprint events

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 7:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 11:06pm

China’s track cycling sprint coach has pierced the hype surrounding Sarah Lee Wai-sze by sending out a clear warning to the Hong Kong team – his riders are in their best form ever.

Frenchman Benoit Vetu countered Hong Kong’s claim that London keirin bronze medallist Lee was in the form of her life by saying the same thing about Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi.

Both riders trained on Tuesday at the Rio velodrome as they prepare to challenge for medals in the keirin and the sprint along with Lee and another favourite, Australian Anna Meares.

“Well, my girls are ready and riding very fast,” said Benoit. “I can say they are going faster than ever so if someone can beat us, she has to be very strong.

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“We are first thinking about the team sprint but if we can get other gold medals, it will be in the sprint and keirin.”

Media blackout for Hong Kong Olympic medal hope Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee arrived in Rio this week and her coach Shen Jinkang has imposed a media blackout as she tries to improve upon her bronze in London.

Gong, 29, was part of China’s silver-winning women’s team sprint team from the 2012 Games, was third in the keirin at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon and is also part of the team sprint squad.

While Vetu exuded confidence about his riders’ chances, he also paid tribute to Lee’s ability and felt she would be a major contender for honours at the Rio Olympic Velodrome.

“Sarah is a very good rider,” said Vetu. “She will be one of the main contenders and will be one of the best riders for sure.”

When asked about the kind of training his riders are undergoing in order to improve their speed, the coach smiled and refused to give too much away, repeating his requirement for those who wish to overcome the China team.

“We’ve had some good training, that’s what I can say,” said Vetu. “We will give a good fight and fight hard and if someone beats us they will have to be very, very strong.”

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The fact the China are giving priority to the team sprint may be to Lee’s advantage because the event takes place on Friday, one day before the keirin event.

However, the competition is not restricted to China with Meares and a host of other riders also posing a major challenge.

According to Lee’s coach Shen, the 29-year-old Hong Kong rider has never been stronger after an encouraging run-up to the Olympics.

She finished third in a World Cup event in Hong Kong in January and managed ninth place in the world championship in London, where Zhong won the sprint title.

However, she hit form in June when she grabbed four gold medals at the International Track Series in Melboure, Australia, including the women’s keirin.