Is this the end of the road for Hong Kong Olympic hero Sarah Lee, with cycling star said to be ready to quit?
The 2012 London Games bronze medal winner says her season is finished as she decides to continue her studies and take time off to spend with her family
Hong Kong Olympic hero Sarah Lee Wai-sze cast doubt on her future, hinting she may quit cycling before the 2020 Tokyo Games, a reliable source disclosed on Wednesday.
Lee appeared at the Jockey Club Athlete Incentive Awards Scheme presentation on Wednesday, where she received HK$120,000 for winning two bronze medals at this month’s China National Games in Tianjin.
A source close to the cycling team said Lee wants to commit less to training and spend more time on her studies – and if the Sports Institute, where she is based, does not accept that, she will have to quit.
“There have been a lot of discussions but the bottom line is that an athlete needs to maintain a certain amount of training hours to be a full-time athlete,” said the source.
“It’s not only cycling but this also applies to other tier A sports at the Sports Institute.
“If they cannot reach an agreement, Lee may choose to leave.”
Lee remained tight-lipped on her future, however, saying she was taking a rest and would not be competing any more this year.
By ending her season prematurely, she will skip the forthcoming World Cup series.
“I am now taking a rest and spending most of my time with my family and friends in Hong Kong,” she said.
“Also, I’ve just begun another degree course and I want to put more effort on my studies. I won’t be competing any more this year and I will skip the World Cup series.”
Hong Kong cycling coach Shen Jinkang said Sports Institute scholarship athletes had an obligation to represent Hong Kong at major competitions, although he didn’t mention Lee by name.
The source suggested Lee, 30, could be more interested in coaching than competing.
“There have been a lot of discussions and Lee has preferred to become a coach,” the source said. “She has to consider her future as she is not young any more.”
Shen, who is also the chairman of the Chinese Cycling Association, said the China team have already secured top German coach Tim Zuhlke and a former British coaching director, which could benefit Hong Kong’s cyclists as well.
“They can also offer help to Hong Kong riders and what we want to do is to provide the best training for our athletes,” he said.
Vivian Ma Wing-yu, widely tipped to become Lee’s successor, is now in Beijing on a training stint.
Lee has spent most of her time after the Rio Games on her studies. She took part in the World Championships in Hong Kong in April and only resumed training one month prior to the Tianjin National Games.
Meanwhile, more than HK$3 million was handed out to medallists from the World University Games and the National Games.
Swimmer Siobhan Haughey, who has returned to her studies at the University of Michigan, received the biggest share with HK$1 million in the bank after capturing two gold medals at the University Games, while cyclist Leung Chun-wing received HK$420,000 for winning one gold and one silver at the National Games.
Leung said he would focus on the track for the 2018 Asian Games despite his bronze medal success in the men’s road race at the 2014 Incheon Games.
“My prime targets would be the omnium and the team pursuit on the track for the next Asian Games,” said Leung.
“I will take part in more international events in these two disciplines, including the World Cup series as a build-up to 2018.”