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Thursday, August 4, 2016, 11:48

Piece of cake for HK's Sarah Lee?

By Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong
Piece of cake for HK's Sarah Lee?
Hong Kong's Wai Sze Lee ompetes in the Women's Sprint qualifying during the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London on March 5, 2016. (Eric FEFERBERG / AFP)

Cycling queen Sarah Lee broke Hong Kong's 16-year Olympic medal drought when she won a bronze in 2012. Now she has her sights set on Rio gold.

Lee's third place at London brought home the first Olympic cycling medal and just the third Games medal in history for Hong Kong, but she didn't stop there. She became the 500m time-trial world champion in 2013, and took two more golds in the keirin and individual sprint at the Asian Games in 2014.

But a nasty crash during the March world championships gave Lee's fans a scare after a Russian rider rode into her near the finish line during the first round.

But the 29-year-old, who trains in the high altitude of Kunming, Yunnan province, has since recovered completely and is in fine form entering Rio after winning a fourth gold medal at the International Track Series in Melbourne last month.

"Your mentality has to be strong and stable in order to beat all the other competitors," Lee told city broadcaster RTHK, adding she had no illusions about the quality of her rivals in Rio both physically and mentally.

"Whoever wins or loses, it all depends on your tactics," she said.

Her coach believes that at 29 she now has the experience and expertise to improve on her 2012 bronze.

"With all the competitions that Sarah has competed in, she's gone through wind and rain and is very experienced, so her performance in the Olympics won't be affected" Shen Jinkang told RTHK. "I believe she will become stronger and stronger."

Hong Kong has won only one gold, in windsurfing at Atlanta 1996, and one silver, in table tennis at Athens 2004, since first competing at the Games in 1952.

Lee had a humble upbringing in one of the city's public housing estates. Despite suffering from anaemia, which causes her to tire easily, she was selected for her school athletics team and started cycling training while at high school. She became a full-time athlete in 2004.

A road accident in 2006 nearly sidelined her cycling career following a bad fall when after she swerved her bike to avoid hitting a dog.

The accident resulted in multiple surgeries on a broken left hand, but Lee powered through her recovery winning Asian Games gold in the 500m time trial in 2010 and bronze in the sprint.

After adding two more Asian Games golds in the 2014 individual sprint and keirin, she declared she was ready to go for gold in Rio.

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