Lee won the women’s handcycle (H1-5) road race at the Hangzhou 2022 Para-Asian Games on Saturday, covering 13.5 kilometers of the Chun’an Jiexiu Sports Center cycling road course in 23 minutes, 35.80 seconds.
Para-cycling involves different types of bicycles depending on the type of impairment, and Lee, who has a lower limb impairment, rides a handcycle with her arms rolling the pedals while lying on her back. In the road solo, competitors start at one-minute intervals and are ranked according to their personal records.
Lee was 4.11 seconds behind China’s Sun Bianbian (10:17.80) after the first leg of the race in 10:21.91, but she picked up the pace in the second half. Her final time was 23:35.80, 15.65 seconds faster than Sun Bianbian’s 23:51.45.
After the race, Lee said, “I’m the oldest player in the final. I was intimidated by the younger guys, but I came here for the national team, so I didn’t use my age as an excuse and ran to the finish.”
Paralyzed in an accident at the age of 19, Lee didn’t pick up a table tennis racket until she was 34.
At 40, she took up track and field, winning a triple gold medal at the 2012 Para National Championships (Korean records in the javelin, discus, and shot put) before switching back to handcycling in 2013.
The following year, in 2014, she became the first Asian athlete to win an international Para-cycling event (2014 Para-Cycling World Cup in Italy), announcing the arrival of the “42-year-old comet” to the world.
Lee went on to win two Para Asian Games titles, in Incheon in 2014 and Indonesia in 2018, where he returned to the top of the podium to win three consecutive titles in the sport.
In 2018, he also competed in Para Nordic skiing (cross-country and biathlon) at the Pyeongchang Paralympic Winter Games, about a year after learning to ski.
“I’m grateful to my ancestors for my athleticism. I had a different physique since I was a child,” he said, adding, “I was exhausted from being disabled and rehabilitated, but I think I did well every time because of my natural body.”
“I like (cycling road races) the most because it’s not a battle against others, but against myself,” he said, “I feel a sense of pride when I think I beat myself.”
“I think a lot while I’m running, and when I’m pushing myself, my body doesn’t belong to me,” he said. “I tell my body and my bike, ‘You two work together as one, run well,'” he said. “I want to have a race where I’m not ashamed of myself until the moment I get off the bike.”
Lee will compete in the 41.4-kilometer handcycle individual event on Sunday. If she wins that event, she will win two titles in three consecutive Para Asian Games. 슬롯