The Hong Kong cycling team, headed by ace rider Sarah Lee Wai-sze, paid their last respects to coach Pu Linjun on Sunday before setting off for their upcoming World Cup series campaigns.
Lee, who is currently competing in the women’s keirin in a Japanese domestic cycling series, interrupted her schedule to make a special trip to Guangzhou to attend Pu’s funeral service on Sunday morning.
She was seen kneeling in front of Pu’s coffin before head coach Shen Jinkang lifted her up and comforted her. Reports said Lee was in tears when she heard her coach had passed away.
Pu died on Wednesday during the team’s training camp in Guangzhou, from an apparent heart attack, as they prepared for an afternoon practice session.
The 48-year-old was a former China national track and road race champion. After retiring from competition, he became the Yunnan provincial team coach before joining the Hong Kong team in 2011 to bolster the team’s London Olympic Games campaign, in which Lee won a bronze medal in the women’s keirin.
Pu worked with Lee and the rest of the sprinting team for various track events on the international stage, including the world championships, Asian Games and World Cup series. He was always seen helping Lee in the standing starts of track events and was often referred to as “the man behind Lee”.
The training camp in Guangzhou is part of their preparations for the new season beginning with two World Cup events – in Glasgow from November 4-6 and in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, the following week
Lee will return to Japan on Monday to finish the last of her four events next weekend before joining her teammates in time for the Dutch competition.
Meng Zhaojuan, one of riders of the 10-member squad who will be leaving for Scotland on Tuesday, said it would be difficult for them to focus after Pu’s death.
“It all came so sudden and I don’t think the team members can recover from their sadness in such a short time,” she said. “But we all know life must continue and it will be a big recognition for coach Pu’s hard work over these years if we can do well on the track. I am sure he would want to see us perform well.”
Chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Association Leung Hung-tak said officials would sit down with the Sports Institute after the first two rounds of the World Cup to discuss Pu’s replacement.