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Sarah Lee with her two gold medals at the 2019 track World Championships. The 35-year-old is preparing the 2022 Worlds in Paris after the postponement of the Hangzhou Asian Games. Photo: Winson Wong

Sarah Lee Wai-sze’s Asian Games status up in the air, as Hong Kong cycling team target track World Championships

  • Double Olympic bronze medallist still with team after celebrating 35th birthday, but Hangzhou plans on hold until ‘there is a clearer idea of new dates’
  • Hong Kong team to take part in a series of international events in preparation for Paris showpiece in October

Hong Kong’s cycling team have set their sights on the track World Championships in October after the postponement of Asian Games, with star rider Sarah Lee Wai-sze still included in their plans – for now.

With China delaying September’s Hangzhou Games because of a rise in Covid-19 cases, cycling head coach Shen Jinkang and his charges will now compete in a series of international competitions building up to the track Worlds in Paris.

“We will need to find other competitions to keep the momentum and improve the riders in their specific skills,” Shen said. “We now plan to send teams to the Asian Championships in India in June, and the Nations Cup in Colombia in July, which will be followed by the Japan Cup Class I&II events with the track World Championships in Paris the prime target.

“But of course the Sports Institute will review the pandemic situation in these countries before we allow the riders to go.”

Sarah Lee beats Germany’s Emma Hinze for the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Izu Velodrome in Japan. Photo: AFP

Most of the Hong Kong team headed to Kunming for a training camp late last year, to prepare for the Asian Games and minimise the effects of quarantine requirements in China.

Lee and Leung Wing-yee – a bronze medallist at the 2018 Asian Games – joined the team last month, and according to the coach, both riders are making good progress.

Lee, who has two Olympic bronze medals under her belt, celebrated her 35th birthday last week but the veteran was still a key member of the original Hangzhou Games squad.

Cyclist Sarah Lee and coach Shen Jinkang celebrate bronze in the keirin after the victory ceremony at the 2021 China National Games in Shaanxi. Photo: Cycling Association

“We had entered her in all individual and team sprinting events in Hangzhou with the deadline for registration set for this month,” said Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak. “But following the Games organisers’ decision to postpone the event, this squad will not happen, at least at this moment.

“We know the coach has set up new plans for the team and so far we have heard nothing that Lee will not be part of that plans.”

The cycling chief said it would be too early to decide if Lee would continue for the Hangzhou Asian Games.

“We have to know the Games’ new dates first before we can say anything,” he said. “Lee is still highly competitive among the sprinters in Asia and has the quality to do well at the Asian Games, but I am sure she will only make a decision once we have a better idea of when the Games will start.”

Youngster Lee Sze-wing celebrates her victory in the women’s road race at the 2021 National Games. Photo: Cycling Association/Wu Jianbo

Hong Kong did not participate in the 2021 track Worlds as the event was held in the Netherlands just two months after the Tokyo Olympics, with air travel still affected by the pandemic.

But Lee was a double world champion in the sprint and keirin at the 2019 event in Pruszkow, Poland.

Coach Shen said his riders were not discouraged, despite the postponement of the Asian Games.

The men’s 4,000 metre pursuit team recently recorded their fastest time of four minutes and 4.21 seconds during practice, while younger members stand to benefit with more preparation time before rubbing shoulders against the best in the region.

Shen name-checked men’s riders Ng Pak-hang, Vincent Lau Wan-yau, Tso Kai-kwong, Ng Sum-lui, Chu Tsun-wai and Liang King-hung, and women’s riders Phoebe Tung and Lee Sze-wing as all having made strong improvements during the training camp in Kunming.