6th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s celebrated track cyclist, Sarah Lee Wai-sze, has announced her retirement from professional cycling and will assume the role of coach for the Hong Kong cycling team‘s short-distance division. Lee expressed her gratitude to the public for their support: “So many people have supported me, encouraging me to be a good person and to become someone who can help Hong Kong.”
Lee, who is 36 years old, first represented Hong Kong in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, where she won a gold medal in the women’s track cycling 500-meter time trial, breaking the Asian record. She went on to achieve numerous victories in international competitions, including three Olympic appearances. At the 2012 London Olympics, she won Hong Kong’s first-ever bronze medal in cycling, in the women’s keirin event. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Lee won a second bronze medal in the women’s sprint, becoming the first Hong Kong athlete to win medals in two different Olympic Games.
In her interview, Lee admitted that her mentality had changed after the Tokyo Olympics. She expressed concern that focusing too much on individual athletes could prevent other promising athletes from developing. “If I am on the team, only two out of the four athletes in the short-distance division can compete. But if I am not on the team, three of them can participate, which is more fair to them,” Lee said.
Lee was born in Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, Hong Kong, on 12th May, 1987. She grew up in a poor family, sharing a 200-square-foot public flat with her parents and two older siblings. Despite being born with anemia, Lee represented her school in athletics in 100 and 400-meter dash. At Form 3, her school recommended her to the Hong Kong Sports Institute, where her talent for cycling was spotted.
Lee became a full-time athlete in 2004, initially training as a road cyclist. She was in danger of leaving cycling after a serious accident in 2006, where she broke her left scaphoid bone while swerving to avoid a stray dog during training. Lee is coached by Jinkang Shen, who has also coached other successful Hong Kong cyclists, including Kam-Po Wong.
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Lee competed in both the sprint and keirin events. Although she lost in her keirin heat, she won in the repechage to advance to the quarterfinals. She finished first in her quarterfinal heat but finished fifth in the semifinals, competing in the B Final for placement and ultimately finishing eighth. In the sprint event, Lee advanced to the 1/16 finals but lost to Katy Marchant of Great Britain to fall into the repechage. She won in the repechage and advanced to the 1/8 final, where she won again. In the quarterfinals, she lost to Olena Starikova from Ukraine and had to race in the bronze medal match against the reigning world champion, Emma Hinze of Germany. She won the bronze medal match, becoming the only Hong Kong Olympian with medals from different Olympic Games.
Lee’s idol is Great Britain’s six-time Olympic champion, Sir Chris Hoy. She is also a Baptist Christian and, in 2009, enrolled in a distance-learning theology course with the New York Theological Education Center Chinese Online School of Theology.
Lee’s retirement marks the end of a remarkable career in which she has consistently broken barriers and set records for Hong Kong. As she embarks on a new role as coach, she will continue to inspire a new generation of Hong Kong athletes and contribute to the development of the sport in the city.