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|August 17, 2000||
Hong Kong windsurf queen bids for gloryTan Ee Lyn in Hong Kong
Windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, Hong Kong's first Olympic gold medallist, has no illusions about the tough challenge she faces defending her Games championship in Sydney.
The tall, lean athlete, who turns 30 next month, picked up the gold in Atlanta in 1996 to become the toast of her bustling home town where reward for effort is mostly measured in dollars and sporting prowess is low in the order of merit.
Lee, affectionately known as San San, competes full-time but the Olympics are a special goal for any athlete. She has stepped up the pace in a gruelling training schedule, running, swimming, weightlifting and windsurfing her way through 10 hours of every day for months.
Apart from facing the world's best, she says Sydney's famous picture postcard harbour can be deceptive and will demand exceptional skills in unpredictable winds and currents.
But Lee, who has been windsurfing since she was 12, said in a recent interview she was in good shape to win a second gold.
"I have a chance for a medal, but it really depends on my form. It's a difficult area, I want a medal," she said.
She competed in an international event in Los Angeles in July and lines up in another in Sydney to fine tune for the big test.
"They'll allow me to tune up my speed and other things I need to improve to get well prepared for the Olympics," she said.
After more than 10 years racing full-time, these Games may be her last.
"I make no promises for the future. I want to concentrate on the coming Olympics. After the Olympics, I'll decide if I go or if I stay," Lee said.
"A windsurfer normally stays competitive up to 36 years old. But it depends on my motivation, if it's there, I'll go on."
In a team of about 30 athletes for the Sydney Games, Hong Kong's other main medal contender is cyclist Wong Kam-po, who won the road race at the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1999.
Wong will compete in a track cycling event. The territory will also be represented in swimming and table tennis.
Lee's gold medal win in the year before the former British colony returned to Chinese rule drew tens of thousands of beaming Hong Kongers onto the streets, happy to celebrate during a period of political uncertainty.
Amid the outpouring of pride, Lee's achievement also triggered a self-examination on what was a dismal lack of support for sport and sporting excellence in the capitalist haven.
Four years on, Lee says there have been some improvements in facilities, but nowhere near enough.
"We still don't have a lump sum allocated to sport. None of the athletes certainly think we have too much," Lee said. "In the future we still hope that the government and commercial companies can support us more.
"We definitely need money. Without it we can do nothing. On the technical side, we need sports science support, technical support so we can improve physically."
Specialists were needed to help athletes draw up training programmes and in recovery training in the event of injuries, along with more racing and training areas.
Timothy Fok, president of Hong Kong's Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, urged the building of world class sports facilities, strangely absent in the rich territory.
Fok, the son of prominent and influential tycoon Henry Fok, also raised hopes of more commercial support from local businesses when sports becomes more visible, and profitable.
"It is very important people like ourselves continue to be volunteers, that the government builds the right stadiums and investments. If we have the visibility, commercial participation will be a very important component in the whole thing."
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