Vivian Ma steps into Sarah Lee’s sizeable shoes after closing the book on her studies at Chinese University
Hong Kong cycling prodigy prepares for National Games debut, having only turned professional 10 months ago
Vivian Ma Wing-yu has no regrets about embarking on a professional career as the promising cycling sprinter prepares for her debut at the 13th National Games later this month – her first major multisport games 10 months after committing herself full-time to the sport.
Widely regarded the successor to Sarah Lee Wai-sze, Ma embraced her new career after dropping her studies at Chinese University in November, although it may be too early to talk about medals at the Games in Tianjin.
“The standard of Chinese women’s sprinting is very high and the National Games is very competitive,” said Ma, who turned 20 on Tuesday.
“It will be a good learning process for a young sprinter like myself before I set sights on the 2018 Asian Games or even the Tokyo Olympics.”
The youngster said she believes she has the patience to keep working hard so she can be competitive at the highest level.
“I also want immediate success, but there is no quick fix in sport, as we all know,” said Ma.
“You have to work step by step before you can gain the required experience to put you through to the top level.”
Ma will be starting in the women’s sprint and keirin, the same disciplines as Lee, in Tianjin.
She will be joined by another young rider, Lee Yin-yin, in the team sprint, an event where there is plenty of room for improvement for the up-and-comings.
China’s Zhong Tianshi and Gong Jinjie took the team gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games last summer.
“I am happy to see our new generation of riders compete at this level, no matter what position they finish in. It means there is a future for our women’s sprinting,” said coach Shen Jinkang, who was also appointed the Chinese Cycling Association chairman in July.
“But for Lee, she is always a serious medal challenger and will be the favourite as long as she can reach her best form after the break since the world championships in April.”
Lee won the sole gold medal for Hong Kong in Shenyang four years ago.
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“My form is getting better and better and I will try to avoid making mistakes in the sprint the way I did four years ago when I exited in the quarter-finals,” said Lee ahead of her third National Games campaign.
“We all know each other [the mainland competitors] well and it is a tough battle against them.”
To push Lee to her best before the Games, Shen secured a top men’s sprinter from Europe to help his charge.
Frenchman Charlie Conord, a track cycling World Cup medallist who also captured a bronze medal at the European championships, is working as Lee’s training partner.
“The impressions are good as Lee is very strong, has a lot of power and speed,” said Frenchman Conord.
“She followed me every step of the way, right behind me. I didn’t know about her speed until my first week here. Wow, that’s all I can say. It’s very impressive.”