Saturday, 4 August 2012

Riding High

Lee Wai-sze looks the most excited, with Guo Shuang and Victoria Pendleton
Hong Kong has its third ever Olympic medal thanks to Sarah Lee Wai-sze who won bronze in the women's keirin race in cycling.

Lee Lai-shan won gold in windsurfing in 1996 and Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak won silver in the men's table tennis doubles.

"I'm very excited," Lee Wai-sze said. "Last year my coach [Shen Jinkang] helped me make progress. We all worked really hard and that's why we've got this breakthrough. I was feeling very confident and believed I could win a medal."

However Shen was more subdued in his praise.

"I think she could have got silver or even the gold medal," he said. "Sometimes she wasn't brave enough to seize opportunities. I'm glad but not completely satisfied. There won't be a huge celebration for us because I was expecting a better result."

Meanwhile Hong Kong officials are thrilled to bits as the city is hardly an athletic powerhouse so to win any kind of medal is considered an amazing feat.

This is the first time the women's keirin event is in the Olympics. The race is all about tactics and then speed.

In it, the racers follow a motorized pacer for 5.5 laps and then once it leaves the track, the cyclists have 2.5 laps to outperform their competitors and win the race. One doesn't want to go out in front most of the time as others can follow behind and benefit from the wind flow. However, those behind need to find the right time to break out and move to the front and be able to sprint to the finish.

The New York Times has an excellent video that explains all of this here.

Of course Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying extended his congratulations:

"We are all very proud of our cyclist Lee Wai-sze who has tried her utmost to strive for excellence in the Women's Keirin. Her perseverance and tenacity has best exemplified the can-do spirit of Hong Kong. Hong Kong people are all graced by Lee Wai-sze's outstanding achievement.

"We will continue to give full support to sports development and cheer for our athletes. We wish them success in the forthcoming competitions."

Lee really has the can-do Hong Kong spirit, born and raised in Ngau Tau Kok, Kowloon. Apparently she was pretty much the lone woman in her sport, having to train with men and on some ways that only makes women better athletes.

Will she inspire the next generation of Hong Kong people to compete against the world's best? Hard to say when there isn't that much appreciation for sports (except for football and perhaps badminton).

But with her wonderful big grin and passion for the sport, we hope that she will set an example for more young people to go faster, higher, stronger.

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