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2020 Summer Olympics

One-time chef Jessica Lee confident she has the ingredients to make Hong Kong cycling team for 2020 Olympics

The Hong Kong-born 27-year-old gives up her life in Glasgow to follow her dream of competing at the highest level

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 8:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 11:30pm

One-time French cuisine chef Jessica Lee Hoi-yan is cooking up a storm on the Hong Kong team after deciding to travel halfway around the world in an attempt to realise her Olympic dream.

A latecomer to cycling, the 27-year-old University of Glasgow graduate has decided to train full-time in the city after making the brave decision to leave her beloved Glasgow, which has been her home since she was 11 years old, to try out her luck here.

She’s been recruited by head cycling coach Shen Jinkang to train full-time after appearing at the China National Games in Tianjin last September when she represented the overseas Chinese team.

Lee thinks she has all the ingredients to make the grade for Tokyo even though she’s never been a sporty person to begin with.

“I have never played sport until I was 19 when I entered university, where I became a member of the rowing team,” said Lee, who finished second in the women’s sprint behind Olympic medallist Sarah Lee Wai-sze at the Hong Kong championships at Tseung Kwan O velodrome on Saturday.

“Honestly, after graduation when I was unemployed, a friend of mine introduced me to track cycling and we tried it in a local velodrome and that’s how I got started.

“In fact it has been only three years since I first rode a bike on the track but I liked it so much I decided I wanted to compete at the Olympics.”

That’s about the same time she was learning the art of French cuisine, but she has bigger fish to fry with a place at the Olympics now her number one priority.

“The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of every athlete’s dream and if you want to do it, you have to set the bar high. I don’t know if I can make it or not, but what I can promise is that I would give it my best to give it a try,” she said.

Born in Hong Kong before moving to Glasgow at the age of 11, Lee started track cycling as a sprinter at 24 and has been training with the Scotland team.

“In the UK, there is no pathway for a track cyclist over the age of 17 and I can only train with the Scotland team which is made up of amateur riders,” she said. “And after hearing that there was an opportunity to become a full-time athlete here, I could not turn down the chance so I decided to return to Hong Kong.

“I was expecting it to be tough as a full-time athlete. In reality, it has been tougher than I imagined. The training intensity of coach Shen’s programme and the missing of my family in Scotland when I was training with the team in Kunming have made my career difficult, but if you want to do it, you don’t want to make any excuse.”

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Lee will continue to race on the second day of the national championships but her next major target will be the Asian Championships in Ipoh, Malaysia next month.

“I want a top-five place but if I race well, I want a medal,” she said. “But racing is all about experience and also about luck. There will be a lot of riders in the Asian Championships and all I can do is do my best.”