Sarah Lee Wai-sze

Sarah Lee’s medal hopes dashed after finishing last in Hong Kong keirin heat

Hong Kong cyclist’s medal hopes dashed after finishing last in the women’s keirin second round at the World Championships

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 12:44am

Hong Kong’s medal hopes were dashed on Sunday after Sarah Lee Wai-sze came last in the women’s keirin second round at the World Championships.

Only the top three of the group made it to the final but Lee failed to recover from a clash with Liubov Basova of Ukraine in the final lap of the six-lap race.

Lee was attempting to come from behind with 200 metres to go but clashed with Basova who then hit Lee Hye-jin of South Korea on the inside. The Korean fell from her bike but both Lee and Basova were badly hampered.

The race was won by Stephanie Morton of Australia, followed by Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania, who all proceeded through to the final while Lee will have to compete in the seventh to 12th place play-off race.

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Lee eventually managed a fourth-place finish in the play-off to take 10th place overall while defending champions Kristina Vogel clinched her second gold in Hong Kong following the German’s earlier success in the sprint.

Martha Bayona Pineda of Colombia was second followed by Nicky Degrendele of Belgium.

Meanwhile, Sarah Lee vowed to continue fighting and won’t quit the sport despite her surprising loss on Sunday.

Just before the visit of chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in the afternoon session, the home favourite made a surprise exit.

It was a disappointing end for Hong Kong riders with Lee wrapping up the tournament by finishing a lowly 10th place in the keirin, three days after capturing bronze medal in the sprint – her fourth medal at the Worlds since she won gold in 2013.

Lee, however, said she was not responsible for the causing the crash otherwise “she would have been disqualified”. And the best track sprinter Hong Kong has ever produced said the experience at the World Championships would help her in the long run.

“There has been pressure of racing at home,” she said. “But at the same time you get the support of the fans which you never get competing overseas. You have to learn how to achieve a balance. The world event is very demanding, both physically and psychologically, and I felt it in my sore legs after the first event in the sprint.

“I am getting older [Lee turns 30 next month] which may be a problem and this might affect my career. But this can be overcome by getting the proper training. In fact, many Olympians are in their 40s. Also, some of the world champions here are in their mid 30. There are always unlimited possibilities for athletes.”

Coach Shen Jinkang praised his charge even though Lee didn’t really meet the high expectations from “everybody”.

“This is a world event and winning is not easy as people think watching it from outside,” said the coach. “She has collected one bronze medal in a highly competitive Olympic programme and showed marked improvement in both her 200 metres flying lap in the sprint and 500 metre time trial. This cannot be achieved without a lot of hard work and effort.

“She probably made a mistake in the keirin by not taking the initiative to attack at the right moment. We have to consolidate all these things and try to improve it in her training so that she can become a stronger sprinter to challenge other athletes.”

The coach said the next target for Lee will be the China National Games in September, where she will partner youngster Vivian Ma Wing-yu in the team sprint.

In the women’s points race, Yang Qianyu finished 20th out of 22 riders, while Leung Chun-wing and Leung Ka-yi retired midway through 200-lap men’s madison. Leung Ka-yu came 26th in the men’s 1000-metre time trial.