China’s Guo Shuang and Sarah Lee Wai-sze of Hong Kong led the Asian charge in the Olympic track cycling events on Friday by taking silver and bronze respectively in the women’s keirin.
While Beijing Olympic sprint champion Victoria Pendleton soaked up the applause of a packed out Velodrome after winning the six-woman final, arguably the happiest rider on the podium was Lee.
Her bronze medal feat handed Hong Kong their first ever Olympic medal in a cycling event, and only their third overall.
Hong Kong athletes had previously won one gold from windsurfing in 1996 and one Olympic silver medal from table tennis.
Lee had signaled her Olympic medal credentials when she beat Pendleton 2-1 in the Olympic test event to take a World Cup sprint bronze in the same arena in February. The women’s sprint competition begins today.
“I’m very excited obviously. Last year my coach helped me to make progress, we all worked really hard and that’s why we’ve got this breakthrough,” Lee said. “I was feeling very confident and I believed I could have a medal. I think everyone had a chance to win and today I did my best.”
It has been an emotional 24 hours for Guo, who has not yet even started her preferred event of the individual sprint.
Along with Chinese teammate Gong Jinjie, Guo won silver in the women’s inaugural team sprint on Thursday — after being relegated from the gold-medal position for an infringement.
Guo was the only rider in the women’s inaugural keirin final to really test Pendleton, when she came racing back on the home straight to force the judges into a quick glimpse at a photo finish.
“I tried to catch her and I followed her closely, but she was really fast. I was really close to her,” Guo said.
After moving a step closer to an historic cycling gold for China, Guo is hoping for better when she begins the sprint tournament on Sunday.
“I can’t say we’re not disappointed, but I feel we’ve made tremendous progress. Hopefully, we’ll go one better next time,” she said.