Back in the saddle – Sarah Lee wins Japan keirin event in first race after Rio Olympics disappointment
The Hong Kong rider is competing in a Japanese professional circuit with three other Olympic stars and top local riders
Hong Kong’s Sarah Lee Lai-sze has put the Rio Olympics disappointment behind her and romped to victory in her professional debut in Japan in her favoured keirin event.
The 29-year-old beat some of Japan’s leading riders, eventually getting the better of local star Riko Kobayashi and holding off her rival down the final stretch after surging to the front with one lap to go.
Lee was Hong Kong’s main medal hope at the 2016 Olympics on August after winning bronze in the keirin at the 2012 London Games.
But she crashed while leading in the keirin semi-finals in Rio after being nudged by Australian rival Anna Meares. Lee, still hobbling after her fall, was later knocked out in the quarter-finals of the track sprint event by Germany’s Kristin Vogel.
After the Games, Lee indicated that she may continue competing until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her first race since Rio was in at the Yahiko velodrome in Niigata prefecture in northwest Japan yesterday.
Lee is one of four overseas riders invited to compete in the competition by the Japan Keirin School for a series of events that lasts until November.
Rio sprint gold medallist Vogel, British rider Katy Merchant and Monique Sullivan, of Canada, are also taking part.
Lee was the only foreign rider in her keirin race yesterday and showed her class against cyclists from the country that invented the track discipline.
The race features a motorised cycle that leads the riders for a few laps before it pulls aside and the cyclists sprint for two more laps to the finish line.
Racing at the 400-metre Yahiko oval will continue for two more days before Lee moves to Yamagata and then Okinawa. The final is in Tokyo where she will clash with the other overseas riders.