Cyclist Sarah Lee in tears after death of coach and personal starter Pu Linjun
Hong Kong’s 2012 Olympic bronze medallist is in Japan for a keirin competition as the local cycling community mourns a ‘good friend’
Hong Kong Olympic medallist Sarah Lee Wai-sze was reportedly inconsolable upon hearing the news of the death of Hong Kong coach Pu Linjun as the local cycling community mourned the passing of a “good friend”.
Pu, 48, known as “the man behind Sarah Lee” because he would always give her a push from a standing start during track events, died of heart attack in a Guangzhou hospital on Wednesday. He was leading the Hong Kong team at a training camp geared towards the world series, which kicks off with the opening leg in Glasgow from November 4-6.
The Hong Kong Cycling Association said it wouldn’t change its plans despite Pu’s death.
Lee, who is in Japan for a women’s keirin competition, was not available for comment but there are reports that she has been crying since hearing of Pu’s death.
Lee won a bronze medal in the women’s keirin at the London Olympics in 2012 and worked closely with Pu during the Rio Olympics in August.
HKCA chairman Leung Hung-tak said: “We felt so sorry when we heard this news [about Pu]. He might have some hidden problems with his heart. I was sitting with him last week and everything seemed to be normal as we chatted.
“He has been doing a lot for Hong Kong since his arrival, especially in track cycling. We lost a good coach and a good friend.
“But as far as I understand, it will not affect our plans for the forthcoming World Cup series. We will be sending the team to Glasgow for the opening leg, to be followed by the Apeldoorn leg in the Netherlands the following week. In a short term, we need to find someone to replace Pu’s role in helping at the start of sprinting events and have also to consider a long-term replacement for him.”
Pu was a former China national team member and later became the Yunnan Provincial coach before his arrival in Hong Kong.
The four-leg World Cup series acts as a qualification for the 2017 track World Championships to be held in Hong Kong at the Tseung Kwan O velodrome in April.
Hong Kong team member Leung Chun-wing, a Rio Olympian in the men’s omnium, posted a black and white photo of Pu and others at the Guangzhou velodrome in memory of his coach.
“He was feeling unwell in his room before the practice session on Wednesday afternoon,” said Leung, who is in Guangzhou for the training camp. “He was immediately sent to the hospital by other coaches but passed away despite some emergency treatment.
“Pu was an awesome guy and has been an important figure of the team set-up since his arrival in Hong Kong. He is nice, always care about others and put others in front of him. We all feel very sad about his death.”
Retired cyclist Jamie Wong Wan-yiu said she was still stunned by the news and at first refused to believe it.
“I bumped into you [Pu] in Kowloon Tong a couple of weeks ago when you said you were busy of obtaining entry visa for competitions,” Wong said in a Facebook post. “I also invited you for barbecue. I can’t believe it’s true up to this moment and feel so sad that I don’t know even how to cry...”
Pu’s mother said she felt proud of her son who had contributed a lot to the sport, first as an athlete and later as a coach who was keen to groom potential athletes.