Sarah Lee fails to fire as she settles for fourth in 500m time trial
Hong Kong ace cyclist unable to improve her qualifying time as a second medal eludes her at the UCI Track World Championships on Saturday night
Hong Kong ace cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze will be presented with one last chance of a medal on Sunday after finishing outside the podium in the women’s 500-metre time trial, one of her pet events, at the UCI Track World Championships on Saturday night.
Lee managed fourth place at the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome after failing to improve her qualifying time set in the afternoon. And she was disappointed she was unable to add to her bronze medal collected in the sprint on Friday after completing the two-lap race in a disappointing 33.723 seconds after clocking an encouraging 33.647 seconds in the afternoon.
Lee won the world title in the 500-metre time trial in Belarus four years ago and she dearly wanted to win the event again in front of her adoring home fans, but she was outclassed in the end by a trio of powerful Europeans.
Russia’s Daria Shmeleva took the gold medal with a time of 33.282 seconds, followed by Miriam Welte of Germany in 33.382. The bronze went to another Russian sprinter, Anastasiia Voinova, the defending champion, who was fastest in qualifying, but only managed 33.454 seconds to settle for third place.
For Lee, it wasn’t the finish she had been hoping for but she was looking ahead.
“I was a bit tired after focusing on the sprint before the start of the championships,” said Lee. “In the past, the time trial always came first in the three events [including keirin] or sometimes the last one but this time they put it in between the two.
“I also found difficulties adapting to the starting routines. In the qualifiers, I came close to a jump start [using too much power at the start] and it was even worse in the final and that’s why I couldn’t improve the performance which I really wanted to. It’s quite disappointing.”
Lee now has the keirin as the last opportunity to bring cheer to the home fans as the Worlds come to an end on Sunday, but she insisted she won’t feel added pressure.
“I have already bagged one medal [in the sprint] and will try to enjoy the keirin,” she said. “We have found the World Championships tougher than we expected. We thought the top-class riders who went to the Olympic Games last year would not work that hard after Rio, but this proved to be not the case.”
Another Hong Kong’ sprinter, Vivian Ma Wing-yu, meanwhile, finished last in the event after clocking 37.128 result in the qualifiers.
But the 19-year-old, who suspended her university studies in November to commit to full-time training, has no regrets despite her less than convincing show.
“There were some mistakes at the start which affected my performance. In fact, this was my first time trial competition,” said the youngster. “I did not know I had to race in this event until the day before and spared little time training for it.”
Ma said her next target will be the National Games in August when she will partner Lee in the team sprint, the same event they won silver at the Asian Championships early this year.
In the women’s individual pursuit, Yang Qianyu came 22nd and failed to reach the medal race while Hong Kong sent Meng Zhaojuan and Pang Yao to the women’s madison, introduced for the first time at the Worlds as the UCI attempt to put the event as an Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020. The duo finished 12th out of 16 teams while Belgium took the gold.
Hong Kong’s rider in the men’s omnium, Leung Chun-wing, finished 17th.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Denis Dmitriev won his first world title with victory over Dutch rider Harrie Lavreysen in the men’s sprint.
New Zealand’s Ethan Mitchell won the bronze medal with victory over Britain’s Ryan Owens.