Disaster for Hong Kong’s medal hopes at Olympics as Sarah Lee Wai-sze crashes out of keirin semi-finals after controversial clash
Hong Kong's Sarah Lee Wai-sze suffered disaster in the semi-finals of the women's keirin in Rio on Saturday, crashing with less than a lap to go as she jostled for position.
Lee, who won bronze in the same event at London 2012, was ideally placed as the pack rounded the turn at 60km/h-plus, but was nudged by Australia's Anna Meares and lost control of her front wheel in a painful looking crash.
It means Lee misses out on a place in the final, having been one of the most impressive qualifiers for the semis in winning her heat.
Lee easily won the 7th-to-12th race, underlining her class and the missed opportunity.
Clearly disappointed afterwards, Lee said she wasn't too badly hurt, and chalked the crash up to “one of those days” as she focuses on a medal in her second event.
“That hurt!" she said. "But it's fine, I just had some scratches.
“She hit me on my elbow with her hip and that’s how I crashed
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Race officials looked long and hard at the incident before deciding Meares was in the clear, with at least one seasoned observer from a major cycling governing body very surprised.
“I watched the video, and she actually was not in the red line. It’s a tough call. But if the referees said she didn’t violate the rules, then she didn’t.
“It wouldn’t make a difference even if I appealed. I have crashed and I wouldn’t make it [to the finals]."
Lee said she'd be ready to take on Meares again in Sunday's sprint.
“I have already calmed down. Don’t worry about me. I am okay. I just need to clean the wounds and sleep early today."
“I scratched my arms and legs. I wasn’t that nervous. But I was a little disappointed. But I will keep going tomorrow."
Meares, who went on to win bronze, insisted she had nothing to apologise for, though she hadn't spoken to Lee.
"Becky James came around the outside of me and at the same time there was a little movement from Wai-sze and it's hard," said the veteran Australian.
"When I came off the track I asked the question, 'Was I in the wrong there?' Because I felt her handlebar hit my leg and unfortunately when that happens the handlebars just go out from underneath you.
"If I was in the wrong I would wear that, absolutely, but it was deemed a racing incident and that’s all that I know from that extent.
"I haven’t seen Sarah yet, those sort of circumstances are hard for anyone to digest. I have great love and respect for Wai-sze Lee and you don't want to see anyone go down like that."
But Meares also warned that she'd be gunning for Lee again on Sunday as she targets sprint gold herself. "I think she's going to be a very strong contender in the sprint absolutely," she added.
British rider James, who went on to win silver, expressed her sympathies.
"I was over the top and didn't even look back," she said.
“She's a lovely girl and a great rider, I feel sorry for her. It's always frustrating when you crash, but it's just one of those things.”
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Hong Kong team manager Johnny Chan Chung-yu was confident Lee would recover in time to contend in the sprint.
"She's very strong, " he said, " she'll be alright."
And Chan said Lee's medal hopes were not over. "She definitely has a chance in the sprint," he said.
"The crash was just an accident, just one of those things. We can't blame the Australian rider [Meares]."