As track cycling began at the Olympic Games on Friday, the United States took its first step towards the medal rounds of the men's and women's individual pursuit when both Taylor Phinney and Sarah Hammer advanced to the first round from their respective qualifying heats.
Competing in his first Olympic Games at the age of 18, Phinney qualified seventh with a mark of 4 minutes, 22.860 seconds over 4,000 meters. Needing a top-eight finish to advance, Phinney locked up a head-to-head match against New Zealand's Hayden Roulston. Seeded second, Roulston clocked a 4:18.990 in his qualifying heat. On Saturday, Phinney needs to beat Roulston in order to advance to the medal round.
"My goal was just to qualify," said Phinney following his performance. "That was the hardest I've ever pushed myself in a pursuit. In training we thought the track would be faster, but it might have been a little colder in here today."
In the women's 3,000-meter event, Hammer qualified fifth with a time of 3:35.471. In her first round match, she'll face New Zealand's Alison Shanks who earned the four seed in 3:34.312.
With a mark seven seconds slower than the top seed, Hammer wasn't thrilled with her performance, but the Olympic format, which includes three rounds of competition than the usual two, is expected to work to her advantage.
"It was ugly for me personally," Hammer said of her qualifying heat." That's not how I hope to feel. My body wasn't handling it today. Four laps in I was like, 'oh, this is not going to be fun.' It was just a bad day. I was a little nervous, so I'm lucky it's over three rounds."
In the only event contested to completion on Friday, the American team sprint squad of Michael Blatchford, Adam Duvendeck and Giddeon Massie finished eighth overall.
Needing one of the eight fastest times in qualifying to advance into the first round, the trio originally recorded the ninth-fastest time with a mark of 45.346 seconds, however Poland was later relegated for a rule infraction and the U.S. climbed one spot to eighth. The commissaire's ruling sent the U.S. to round one where they we're matched against a British squad that claimed the top seed with a 42.950.
In round one, Great Britain dominated the three-lap, 750-meter race with a 43.034 while the U.S. posted a 45.423.
For two thirds of the American team sprint squad, competition will go on as Massie will race in the keirin on Saturday and Blatchford will contest the match sprint beginning Sunday. Phinney and Hammer will contest the first round of the individual pursuit on Saturday with the men's finals scheduled for later that same evening and the women's finals set for Sunday. Also in action for Team USA tomorrow will be Bobby Lea in the men's points race.
2008 Olympic Games
Beijing, China: Aug. 8-24
1. Great Britain 42.950
2. France 43.541
3. Germany 44.197
8. United States (Blatchford, Duvendeck, Massie)
Men's Individual Pursuit Qualifying
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) 4:15.031 - Olympic Record
2. Hayden Roulston (NZL) 4:18.990
3. Alexei Markov (RUS) 4:21.498
7. Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.) 4:22.860
Women's Individual Pursuit Qualifying
1. Wendy Houvenhagel (GBR) 3:28.443
2. Rebecca Romero (GBR) 3:28.641
3. Lesya Kalitovska (UKR) 3:31.942
5. Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif.) 3:35.471
© BikeRadar & USA Cycling 2008