Lee Wai-sze sprints to World Cup gold

Hong Kong's Olympic heroine grabs first place in sprint in Cali for her best result at the event

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 5:26am

Lee Wai-sze sounded an early warning on her road to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with a perfect start in the World Cup opening series.

The 25-year-old kicked off the season with a gold medal in the women's sprint in Cali, Colombia, her first victory in a World Cup event.

In a tough best-of-three final, the London Olympic Games keirin bronze medallist overcame Rebecca James of Great Britain 2-1.

"The two were very close as James beat Lee by one thousandth of a second in the qualifying round," said Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang. "Despite tiring legs in the final, Lee was still able to overcome Rebecca with a powerful sprint before the finish to take the win.

"She has never won at the World Cup before and the result proves she can compete against any top rider at the highest level." The Hong Kong rider's previous best World Cup result was a silver in the keirin and a sprint bronze in London in February.

In Cali, she reached the final with an impressive semi-final victory over another Briton, Jessica Varnish, with two straight wins. Varnish and James had already joined forces to win the team sprint on the previous day. And Varnish was also the partner of Victoria Pendleton at the London Games this summer. The duo reached the gold medal match in the team sprint with a world record before being disqualified.

And despite the absences of now retired Pendleton and mainlander Guo Shuang, silver medallist in keirin and bronze medallist in sprint at the London Games, there was stiff competition as riders entered the next Olympic cycle.

All the national federations have started the job of rejuvenating their teams to ensure the best talents get the opportunity to shine in high-level competitions over the coming seasons.

Hong Kong's promising Leung Chun-wing will compete in the men's points race today. The 18-year-old clinched the world junior title in the same event in August and faces a tough challenge in his first senior World Cup event.

In the men's omnium, Kwok Ho-ting, who failed to make the London Olympics after losing the place to compatriot Choi Ki-ho, finished eighth in Cali, his best achievement in a World Cup event. Kwok, who is now targeting Rio, won the scratch race in one of the six events in the omnium.

Lee and compatriot Diao Xiaojuan will also start in the keirin today.