Teary Sarah Lee is crowned Hong Kong’s best athlete for record fourth time
Hong Kong’s ace cyclist is recognised at a glittering Sports Oscars thanks to her exploits at the World Cup series in Netherlands
A tearful Sarah Lee Wai-sze reflected on a career that has exceeded her humble expectations after she was crowned Hong Kong’s best athlete for a record fourth time at the annual Sports Stars Award in a glittering ceremony in Wan Chai on Tuesday night.
Lee, who fell during the keirin event at the Rio Olympics to miss out on a medal, joined the Hong Kong Sports Institute as a full-time athlete 13 years ago and never thought at the time whether she would make an impact on the world cycling scene let alone make a living from the sport.
But she was recognised as Hong Kong’ s best athlete again for 2016, winning the Best-of-the-best Sports Stars Award and setting a new record in the process having won the accolade in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Another cyclist, men’s champion Wong Kam-po, won three top awards in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
While receiving her latest award at the Grand Hall at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong’s sports version of the “Oscars”, Lee said the past 13 years as a full-time athlete had been a continuous learning curve.
“When I first started I learned a lot from many senior athletes,” said Lee, whose achievements at last year’s World Cup series in the Netherlands, where she won one gold, one silver and a bronze, helped boost her votes.
“When I suffered a serious wrist injury in 2006 I was lucky to get the support from of different groups of people who encouraged me to continue. When I suffered a fall during at [last year’s] Rio Olympics, someone may say I was unlucky but I considered it no more than an incident that’s part of life and looked at it from a different prospective,” said Hong Kong’s Olympic bronze medallist from the 2012 London Games.
Lee accepted her prize with tears in her eyes and thanked her late coach, Pu Linjun, who died in October during the team’s training camp in Guangzhou from an apparent heart attack as they prepared for an afternoon practice session.
‘This award is not only for me but for the entire Hong Kong cycling team and the coach as well. My next target is the World Championships in April. [The year] 2016 was an up and down year for me, I had some happy and sad moments,” she said.
Lee was one of eight Sports Stars of the Year. The other seven were snooker player Ng On-yee, windsurfer Michael Cheng Chun-leung, tenpin bowler Mak Cheuk-yin, fencer Cheung Ka-long, table tennis player Wong Chun-ting and two disabled athletes Tang Wai-lok and Leung Yuk-wing.
World number seven paddler Wong – the highest-ever ranked player for a Hong Kong men’s player – said he was honoured to be selected as one of eight sports stars.
“I want to thank the support from my teammate, Tang Peng. Tang guided me over the years and it would be nice if I could return the favour and win a medal at the next Olympics,” said Wong.
Windsurfer Cheng, who came eighth in the Rio Olympics, an exceptional result for the Hong Kong men’s team, said his Brazil performance helped him win the award for the first time.
The awards probably came too quickly for snooker players Marco Fu Ka-chun and newly crowned women’s world champion Ng, who still made it to the top eight.
Fu failed to make the last eight of Hong Kong’s highest sports honour even though he won one professional ranking tournament – the Scottish Open in December – and more recently reached the final of the Players Championship, losing to Englishman Judd Trump in the final.
Ng just days ago lifted her second world title, defeating India’s India’s Vidya Pillai 6-5 in the final in Singapore.
That victory might boost the future of the sport in Hong Kong because it will likely receive two-year tier A support when the new support cycle begins in April.
Other tier A sports receive four years because snooker is the only tier A sport that is neither an Asian Games nor Olympic Games event.