Newly crowned track cycling world champion Sarah Lee has revealed how she considered retiring after her Rio Olympics flop — but said she is now revived and gunning for next year’s Tokyo Games.
Speaking after being named Hong Kong’s best athlete for a record fifth time, the 31-year-old said she now feels better than ever after bouncing back from some difficult times.
“I really feel amazing,” Lee told AFP after being handed her award by the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a glitzy ceremony late on Tuesday.
“I feel it’s a dream in my life because I stopped cycling for about three months to think about whether I should still stay here or just retire and help the others to develop.
“And then finally I decided to stay, and I feel better than I have ever been before.”
Lee wrote herself into Hong Kong’s history books by winning the city’s first ever Olympic cycling medal — only their third overall — with a bronze in the keirin at London 2012.
Four years later, however, she left Rio empty-handed after crashing out of the keirin semi-final race while jostling for position.
Shortly afterwards, Lee was rocked by the sudden death of her coach and personal starter Pu Linjun from a heart attack in October 2016.
Following a period of soul-searching, she rediscovered her form in 2018, picking up two golds at the Asian Games in Indonesia, a silver at the world championships in the Netherlands and two golds on the World Cup series.
And she has made a blistering start to 2019, completing the sprint and keirin double at the track world championships in Pruszkow, Poland in early March.
“I just feel unbelievable for myself,” she said.
“But also I think it’s a chance, and with some luck I hope that next year I still can keep my ability and I hope I can get a good result in the Olympics.”
Despite her success on the track, 2018 was a difficult year for Lee after her friend and two-time Olympic champion Kristina Vogel was left paralysed after a crash in training.
Lee said the experience has given her extra motivation to perform on the track.
“We are really good friends,” she said. “I didn’t know what I can say, so I’m trying my best in my career and I will salute and support her with my heart.”
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