San San has point to prove in Olympics

Lee Lai-shan will defend her title at the Olympic Games in Sydney next year.

The Olympic champion made her long-awaited announcement on her return to Hong Kong yesterday.

Accompanied by husband Sam Wong Tak-sum, the cheerful Cheung Chau-born star, who came a disappointing 15th in the World Championship in New Caledonia last week, said: 'Even though the opposition in Sydney will be extremely strong and the road ahead is very tough for me, I have decided to accept the challenge.' Her decision ended 11 months of speculation. San San took time off after winning the Asian Games gold medal in Thailand last year to concentrate on her sports degree in Australia.

She graduated just before heading for the World Championships, where she failed to live up to her pedigree because of a lack of preparation.

San San revealed that she had actually made up her mind to compete in Sydney in September, when she finished fifth in the Pre-Olympic Regatta.

'That result gave me the motivation to go for the Olympics,' she said. And her performance in New Caledonia further bolstered her determination.

'I don't want to end my career in that way. Although I was lacking training time in the past six months, I feel that my basics are still there and my board speed in light wind conditions is still fast. I want to prove that I'm still able to compete at that level,' she said.

While she admits that she hopes to bring back an Olympic medal, she does not want to put herself under too much pressure as she is racing against time.

'I know Hong Kong people expect me to win a gold in every regatta I compete in and I've accepted that. But this time around I would rather see the Olympics as a challenge than as a task to defend my title.

'My main target will be to challenge myself, challenge my opponents and challenge the environments. We'll starting training tomorrow, trying to get every minute on the water.' Both San San and Wong pointed out it will be much more difficult for her to win the gold in Sydney than it was in Atlanta three years ago.

'Australia's Jessica Crisp came from nowhere to finish second in the Pre-Olympic Regatta. It showed how important it is to get used to the competition venue,' she said.

Wong added: 'She was the strongest one when she triumphed in Atlanta, but she has lost that edge.'