Hong Kong’s elite cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze bagged a gold medal in the women’s sprint at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup held on home ground over the weekend.
Lee, a 2012 London Olympic Games bronze medallist, proved to herself to be the best female sprinter in the world again, with a spectacular performance at the Tseung Kwan O velodrome on Saturday.
The 32-year-old defeated German rider Emma Hinze, aged 22, 2-0 in the best-of-three finals.
Lee’s victory marked the third time she topped the podium in the 2019-2020 World Cup series that began in early November. She’s also managed to stand undefeated in the women’s sprint for more than a year.
Lee was back in action on Sunday to race in the women’s keirin, but had failed to clinch another medal for the city. She only came in fifth place in the finals, with South Korea’s Lee Hye-jin winning the title.
Speaking to media after the race, Lee said that although she lost in the finals, she was happy that the Hong Kong leg of the World Cup series pushed through, amid the ongoing social unrest in the city.
She said some overseas riders were concerned about the level of safety in Hong Kong and kept asking her for updates on the latest situation.
“Over the last two weeks, I felt worried about the situation, that it would put overseas riders in danger when they came here for the event,” Lee said. “But everything got better after the voting day (the district council elections on November 24).”
The local cycling star, who once wrote on social media to tell Hongkongers to “add oil”, hoped her performance in the four-day tournament demonstrated “the spirit of Hong Kong”, and wished people could find the best way to fight for freedom.
“Hong Kong is our home, and there is a future for our teens. Don’t feel like we’re doomed – we need to have faith and hope to face every challenge,” she said.
Meanwhile, national team rising star Ceci Lee Sze-wing finished seventh in the women’s omnium on Sunday, marking the best result she has ever attained at a World Cup.
The 18-year-old made her debut in the international elite cycling scene last month at the World Cup in Minsk, Belarus.
Her seventh-place finish in the Hong Kong leg was a significant boost from last time, when she ranked 18th.
Ceci credited her improvement to the home crowd, as she didn’t want to disappoint the local fans. The fervent cheers from the crowd motivated her to press on in the multi-event race.
She was particularly pleased with her performance in the elimination event, where she fought to avoid being knocked out of the competition. “I thought to myself: I was racing in front of so many Hongkongers, I couldn’t let that happen, so I persisted till the final moment,” she said.
Ceci also surprised the crowd when she became the second rider to sprint across the finish line during the scratch event.
The home favourite said she didn’t dare to take any chances in previous races against the European riders, as most of them are physically stronger than her. She feared that riding too close to them would result in a crash, but she just went for it when she competed in her city.
While finishing in top seven was a big confidence booster for Ceci, she believes it would be a tough result to beat in her upcoming World Cup events in New Zealand and Australia.
“Finishing in 7th place has helped me gain more ranking points for the Olympics. I’m counting on my determination to fuel me to make the qualification,” she said.