Hong Kong Olympic hope Sarah Lee Wai-sze said her gold and silver medal-winning return to competition last week will prove invaluable for Tokyo 2020 but tempered expectations of a podium finish at the Games. The 34-year-old sprint specialist was satisfied with her performances at the UCI Track Cycling Nations Cup in the city last weekend after more than 14 months of no competition. She and teammate Jessica Lee Hoi-yan carry Hong Kong’s short-track chances at Tokyo’s Izu Velodrome in under three months’ time. “We approached the event as if it was a warm-up for the Olympics. If you’re talking about full-on Olympic schedules, we definitely didn’t do that. But we used our Olympics strategies during communication with the coach and on-track performance,” said the London 2012 bronze medallist in a post-event socially distanced interview. “Honestly, we haven’t competed in so long that we were a bit nervous. So it was good to put a bit of pressure on ourselves and find things to improve on. Now we have three months of hard work and preparation. “There were too many things happening this year because of Covid-19. It’s caused us not to have any feelings. But as the Olympics increasingly seems to be happening, to compete at such a unique event is also a milestone in itself. You don’t even need to think about medals and things. Doing the best I can in this environment will mean I have already succeeded.” Lee cited acceleration as her main work-on after being pipped by long-term rival Yuka Kobayashi of Japan in the keirin. She also said coach Shen Jinkang will be drilling the team to acclimatise to five consecutive days of full competition at the Olympics. “It was a good opportunity to get a feel of what to expect – the event’s scale and level of competition will of course be different. I’m not worried about not being as fast as the upcoming competition as I train with some of the boys in our Hong Kong team,” she said. “I was a bit nervous in the keirin because I had not competed in so long. But I was stable on the tracks in qualifying. Although I let Kobayashi get past me in the final, I actually think losing is better than winning because you can identify what to improve on. She actually used a different way to overtake me, so it’s good to get that experience and learn how to better defend and strategise for the next encounter.” Hong Kong track cycling bubble ‘very good model’ for Tokyo Olympics Shen noted that while fans may have been disappointed that Lee did not win keirin gold, it will ignite more motivation ahead of the Games. “She now knows there are things to improve upon in terms of tactics, judgment and technique,” he said. “Now we’re all motivated more than ever to work them out before the Olympics. There are no other keirin events in between, so it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m still satisfied with her performances.” Lee also commented on the multiple sources of contention surrounding the Games, such as the Japanese public’s scepticism and potential impacts on athlete performances. “I think from a different point of view. What are these Olympics for? Most of the time we’re not actually in it for the medals. For example, leading into this Nations Cup, a lot of athletes asked me if we’d still organise and compete if not many teams signed up. I said we would because it’s our [duty] to. “As athletes we experience a lot of things on the tracks. We realise that Hong Kong is physically and athletically capable in ways that [non-athletes] are probably not familiar with. You can’t quantify that with money,” she said. Are Tokyo, IOC running out of time to make a decision on the Olympics? Lee also welcomed news of the Hong Kong government buying and redistributing Olympic television rights to five public channels. She had long-announced that this would be her final Games, but will still compete for Hong Kong at other competitions before thinking about retirement. “It’s beneficial for Hong Kong sports fans because if it was given to just one channel, they might have prioritised certain events. Now you can switch channels and watch all the different ones. When I was younger I used to love watching diving and other events – sometimes it’s easy to get bored of cycling – so to have options is really good,” she said.