Sarah Lee Wai-sze took a giant step towards qualifying for next year's Tokyo Olympics as Hong Kong capped a marvellous campaign at the Asian track cycling championships in South Korea by adding three gold medals to their tally on Monday.
In all, Hong Kong won four golds, one silver and four bronze, and they saved their best for last at the close of the championships with the city's greatest rider sweeping to success in the women's keirin having taken sprint gold over the weekend at the Jincheon National Training Centre Velodrome.
There was a surprise in the women's madison after Hong Kong's Yang Qianyu and Pang Yao threw the form book out of the window by bagging gold after beating a strong field that included the best riders from China, Japan and South Korea.
The day belonged to Lee, who showed exceptional form to win her second gold of the championships, showing all the power the determination to win in front of Japan's Yuka Kobayashi in the final. Lee Hye-jin, the two-time Olympian from South Korea, took bronze.
Hong Kong's success in South Korea means that the city are lying in second place in both the women's sprint and keirin "nation" rankings. This was largely due to Lee's outstanding previous season in the first five rounds of qualifying. The Asian Championships kicked off the second half of the qualifiers with the best three round results of the six-leg World Cup series and the 2020 World Championships in Berlin in March also counting towards final qualification.
While Lee's victories came as little surprise, Yang and Pang's stunning finish in the women's madison turned heads.
"We could not believe it until the final score was shown," said Yang, who is also the first woman rider from Hong Kong to win the Asian road race title in 2017. "This gold medal is very important as it counts towards the Olympic qualification and we hope we can build on our success here as we approach the forthcoming World Cup series and the World Championships."
There will be 16 teams in next year's Tokyo Olympics as madison makes a return to the Games after being axed from the London and Rio competitions.
Hong Kong are ranked 21st in the qualifiers but Yang and Pang's success should boost their ranking.
The Hong Kong pair completed the 20-kilometre, 80-lap race on 27 sprint points, including 10 points from the final sprint when they were the first to cross the finish, edging China, who were just two points behind for a 25-point total. South Korea, led by Na Ahream, who rides for women's Italian professional team Ale Cipollini, were one point behind for bronze.
Hong Kong's third gold medal of the day came in the men's scratch through Mow Ching-yin, a member of the team pursuit. "The scratch is not on the Olympic programme but Mow was able to take the opportunity to become the Asian champion of the event," said cycling association chairman Leung Hung-tak. "Mow is more used to road racing but he will spend more time and effort on the track now and hopefully he can improve."
Cheung King-lok and Leung Chun-wing took a disappointing fourth place in the men's madison.
The six-round World Cup series kicks off in Minsk in early November. Hong Kong will host the third round of the series at Tseung Kwan O velodrome from November 29 to December 1.
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