After winning Hong Kong’s third-ever Olympic medal at the 2012 Games in London, local cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze became a household name. Seven years later, there is another cyclist surnamed Lee hoping to repeat history: 18-year-old Ceci Lee Sze-wing.
Since becoming a junior member of the Hong Kong cycling team in 2015, Ceci has been singled out as a star in the making.
She already has an impressive track record: two gold and two silver medals at the 2019 Asian Junior Track Cycling Championships in January, and a silver and bronze at the 2nd National Youth Games in August.
But as she tells Young Post, her biggest achievement to date is her third-place finish in the Women’s Elite Omnium at the 2019 Japan Track Cup two months ago; it was her first time standing on a podium alongside senior athletes.
“There were so many top cyclists in the competition,” she says. “It was a confidence boost, because I’ve been trying to transition from the junior category to the senior one as seamlessly as possible.”
Ceci feels she’s already on a par with other Asian cyclists, but she’ll have to wait for her debut in the upcoming UCI Track Cycling World Cup to see where she stands on a global stage.
Surprisingly, cycling wasn’t Ceci’s first love. She began her sporting career as a triathlete, and of the three disciplines involved – running, swimming, and cycling – riding a bicycle was where she fell short. Her family decided to enrol her in the Cycling Association of Hong Kong’s “Stars of Tomorrow” programme, hoping it would help Ceci brush up on her skills, thereby improving her overall performance.
But as Ceci spent more time on the wheels, she became drawn to the high speed and power of the sport. She eventually gave up triathlons to focus on her new-found passion.
“I felt like cycling suited me more. I really liked the speed of it, and its unpredictability. Every cyclist has a unique style, and everyone has a chance at winning a race,” she says.
Sprinting has always been Ceci’s speciality, but she admits that now she’s competing in senior races, she can’t rely on speed alone. She explains that her strategy is too passive – she often finds herself waiting for her opponents to speed up, then trails after them. Instead, her coach wants to her to step up and take the lead.
“Now that I will no longer be the fastest, I know I have to try other strategies. I need to create more opportunities for myself, rather than waiting for them to happen,” the Lam Tai Fai College student says.
Cyclists in the senior category are not only faster and more powerful, but more aggressive, and crashes occur all the time. Ceci was involved in a serious pile-up while competing in Beijing back in August.
After several cyclists crashed together behind her, she lost control of her bike, falling onto the track face-first. Her left eye was badly bruised, so much so that she couldn’t open it the next day.
“It was the scariest crash I’ve ever been in; I was so lucky to be okay,” she recalls. “My parents were worried sick, because I only came back to Hong Kong for two days, then I went to another competition in Russia.”
To avoid losing her nerve like this again, Ceci goes through an unusual pre-race ritual: she gives her bike a kiss for luck. This quick peck on the top of the bicycle frame gives her confidence in both herself and her vehicle.
“I know this may not sound very hygienic, but I do it because I treat the bike like my partner. I cannot achieve anything without it,” she says.
With her sights set on conquering the world of senior cycling, Ceci will have a chance to prove herself when she competes at the 2020 Asian Track Championship in South Korea next October.
“I still don’t know which events I will take part in, but my goal is to finish in the top five.”