Sarah Lee will defend her titles at this week’s track cycling world championships in Berlin after overcoming a row during Hong Kong’s anti-government protests that left her fearing for her Tokyo Olympics campaign.
The Hong Kong rider, who won women’s keirin and sprint gold at last year’s worlds, and keirin bronze at the 2012 Olympics, was caught up in a social media storm last year over comments perceived as backing the protests. While she received plenty of support for embracing freedom of speech and speaking out for Hong Kong, Lee’s remarks also prompted calls from some irate netizens for her to be banned from the sport.
The 32-year-old suspended her social media account in the wake of the controversy, but Hong Kong’s Sports Institute — where Lee trains — declined to take action, saying “there are no grounds for saying her comments had anything to do with the protest”.
Upon reopening her Facebook page three months later, Lee wrote that she had closed it for “a lot of different reasons, among the biggest was that I did not want to see people abusing each other on the page, especially among Hong Kong people”.
She continued: “I have to say I have been struggling for a while, fearing there may be fabrication from the media, fearing people who may use their own words to interpret my sentences, fearing speculation made by people on the internet, fearing getting involved in political turmoil, fearing it may affect the Olympic Games.—APP