33? Not too old – I’ll make it, says Hong Kong cycling ace Sarah Lee as she begins Tokyo 2020 campaign next month
After her record-breaking gold medal success at the Asian Games, the 31-year-old ace turns her attention to Olympic qualifying starting in Paris
Buoyed by Hong Kong’s gold medal winning success at the Asian Games in Jakarta, track heroine Sarah Lee Wai-sze is convinced the city has enough firepower to compete against the world’s best in the women’s team sprint at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
By that time, the 2012 London Games bronze medallist will be 33 but she will get more support than ever as the Hong Kong women attempt to qualify for the Olympic team sprint for the first time with Paris the first leg of a long road to qualifying next month.
In years gone by, the 31-year-old, who won two Asian Games gold medals in Jakarta, fought a lone battle as head and shoulders the best Hong Kong rider.
But Lee is chuffed that Hong Kong riders have improved in leaps and bounds and could be a major force in the women’s team sprint in addition to the individual competitions. Hong Kong won three gold and four silver medals in Indonesia but the local women really stood out with cycling clearly the best performing squad among the 587-member Hong Kong delegation in Jakarta.
“We can do better approaching the Tokyo Olympics because there’s still room for improvement,” said Lee on Wednesday at the Unicef Charity Run press conference.
“The [Hong Kong] women’s sprint team now has four [strong] members and we can help each other out and grow together through top competition, unlike before when I mainly had to fight on my own.”
Asked whether she would be too old in Tokyo, Lee wasn’t concerned she would be well past her prime by the time the next Olympics comes along.
“There are many world-class riders are around that age [who compete at the highest level] and age does not worry me,” she said. “I still feel strong and there is fire in my belly, especially when it comes to the Olympics,” she said.
Lee was delighted two up-and-coming riders – Vivian Ma Wing-yu and Li Yinyin – are improving with the pair winning silver in Jakarta. Jessie Lee Hoi-yan, who finished fourth in the individual sprint in the Indonesian capital, was also coming through the ranks.
“Vivian [Ma] showed great progress at the Asian Games and we can qualify as one of the top eight teams in many international events if we continue to progress and maintain our standards,” said Lee. “Vivian started training as a professional less than two years ago and still has a lot to learn on and off the track such as how to prepare for a major competition, her attitude and other supplementary things. But I have confidence we will make the team sprint for Tokyo 2020.”
Only the eight highest ranked sprint teams qualify for the 2020 Olympics after a 10-round qualification process, which includes six rounds of the World Cup series, two World Championships and two regional championships during the 2018 to 2020 season. Qualifying for the team events is important as it will help them qualify for the individual sprint and keirin, too.
Paris will be the first leg of qualifying as part of the World Cup series. The 2018-2019 series will wrap up with the Hong Kong leg in January next year. Of the six-leg series, only results from the best three rounds will count towards qualification. “We are still in discussion with the coaches as to which events we will enter as we target Tokyo,” said Lee.