UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Hong Kong 2017

Sarah Lee surges into semis of women’s sprint at track cycling world championships

Hong Kong star will face off against Germany’s Kristina Vogel after beating Australia’s Kaarle McCulloch in the quarter-finals at the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 10:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 10:56pm

Home favourite Sarah Lee Wai-sze fired up the crowd as she stormed into the semi-finals of the women’s sprint at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships at the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome on Thursday night.

The Hong Kong star now faces long-time rival and reigning Olympic champion Kristina Vogel of Germany in their showdown on Friday night. Vogel got the better of Lee in the quarter-finals of the sprint at the Rio Games.

But on Thursday night, in-form Lee was clinical against Kaarle McCulloch of Australia in a best-of-three quarter-final, winning the first two races in front of a 2,000 strong crowd at the velodrome.

Lee had earlier set her second best time in the 200m flying start qualifiers – 10.764 seconds. Her best time of 10.67 was set in the World Cup series in Mexico in 2013, with a little help from racing at altitude. Australia’s Stephanie Morton was first in the qualifiers yesterday with 10.724.

“I think [Lee] wanted to be the first in the qualifiers as this was her first race in the world championships in Hong Kong,” said coach Shen Jinkang. “In the end she just lost to Morton, but still a remarkable achievement.

“She really wants to meet Vogel again and now she has the chance. Lee did beat the German rider in the World Cup series in Cali in 2013 when they met in the bronze medal match but lost to her at the Olympic Games.

“Lee has stayed in good form and continued the hard work after the Rio Olympics to get the results here. But she must stay calm against Vogel and execute the ­tactics well.”

The other semi-final will be between Morton and Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania.

Hong Kong’s Vivian Ma ­Wing-yu found the going tough, finishing 29th – last in the quali­fiers with a time of 11.832.

A highlight of the night was Malaysia’s “Pocket Rocketman” Azizulhasni Mohd Awang ­winning his first world title with a superb men’s keirin victory.

Awang hit the front in the final lap with a strong surge to finish ahead of Colombia’s Fabian ­Puerta and Tomas Babek of the Czech Republic.

“I’ve been trying for 10 years. I’ve failed many times ... I keep trying, I never give up because I know if I keep trying hard, one day it’s going to be my time,” said the Olympic bronze medallist.

“And finally today, today it’s my time. I’m the world champion! I can’t believe it!”

Australia fell short of a new world record but took gold with ease as they smashed New Zealand to claim their second straight team pursuit title.

The defending champions and Olympic silver medallists won by nearly 2.5 seconds over the 2015 winners in three minutes 51.503 seconds, outside the world record of 3:50.265 set by Britain at the Rio Games. Italy took the bronze.

Poland’s Adrian Teklinski, 27, won his first world title with a powerful break in the final stages of the 15km men’s scratch race, finishing comfortably ahead of Germany’s Lucas Liss and Christopher Latham of Britain.

The United States won the women’s team pursuit title with a thrilling victory over Australia, with New Zealand picking up the bronze.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse