By Justin Davis, AFP
Sunday, August 17, 2008 12.00pm
Brits break team pursuit world record; fly in sprint qualifying
Rebecca Romero and Wendy Houvenaghel, gold and silver in the women's individual pursuit AFP/Getty Images
Romero beats Houvenaghel in women's individual pursuit
Britain's Rebecca Romero made Olympic history on Sunday when she became just the second woman to claim medals in two different sports at the summer Games.
England's Romero dominated an all-British track cycling individual pursuit final to leave Wendy Houvenaghel of Northern Ireland with the silver medal after posting a winning time of three minutes 28.32 seconds for the three-kilometre event.
Lesya Kalitovska of the Ukraine defeated New Zealand's Alison Shanks to win the bronze medal.
"It's not the way I imagined it to feel, but it's magic!" said Romero. "It's pretty incredible. I'm so proud of myself. If it were easy, so many people would have done it already. I wanted a gold, I wanted to be a champion. Now I've put my mark down to be remembered."
Hers was the first Olympic gold medal for Britain in the event, and came a day after team-mate Bradley Wiggins successfully defended his individual pursuit crown in the men's four-kilometre race.
Romero's win, five months after her maiden world title, meant Britain have now claimed an impressive four golds from five of what will ultimately be 10 track finals.
British riders have also now won eight of the 15 medals up for grabs so far.
Romero, who won an Olympic rowing silver four years ago in the women's quadruple sculls, followed in the footsteps of Roswitha Krause of the former East Germany. Krause won a swimming silver at the 1968 Games in Mexico from the women's 4x100m relay, then won silver in the women's handball final at the 1976 Games in Montreal, and won handball bronze at Moscow in 1980.
The 28-year-old Romero was disappointed with her Olympic achievement in Athens. Just two years after taking up her new sport, she said there was no way she was settling for silver again.
"I'd have been absolutely crushed if I got the silver," said Romero, who only took up cycling seriously in 2006 after giving up rowing due to a recurring back problem."
Houvenaghel only took up cycling six years ago, but won world championship bronze in the individual pursuit and gold in the non-Olympic team event at Manchester in March. Formerly an amateur cross-country runner, she discovered a talent for time-trialling in 2002 not long after she had run the London Marathon for the first time in April of that year. Although being pushed into road time-trialling by her cycling enthusiast husband, she was inspired to take up track cycling after she saw Scotland's Chris Hoy win gold in the kilometre at Athens in 2004.
On Sunday, the 33-year-old Houvenaghel suffered from the effects of her fast rides on Saturday. She was never really in gold contention and finished just over two seconds behind Romero.
But even as Romero screamed out in joy as she brandished a Union Jack flag, Houvenaghel still had a huge smile on her face.
"It's great to get silver, and for Rebecca to get gold as well," said Houvenaghel. "It's the best I could do today, considering I did two pursuits (in qualifying) yesterday. I couldn't go faster. I did my best and I have to make peace with that."
Romero added: "I'm ecstatic for her (Houvenaghel). She's a great athlete. She has given me a memorable Olympics."
Britain set new team pursuit world record
Two-time Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins expects a tough battle on Monday when he leads Britain out in a bid to claim their first Olympic gold in the coveted team pursuit.
Britain underlined their credentials as heirs to defending champions Australia by beating their own world record on Sunday in a time of three minutes 55.202 seconds. It allowed them to finish fastest in the first round and book the gold medal match against Denmark. An impressive New Zealand quartet will face Australia in the fight for bronze.
Britain's Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas and Paul Manning came over the finish line together in world record time having raced as a trio for the final three and a half laps after losing Wiggins - something allowed in an event where the clock is stopped when the third member of the team completes the course.
Wiggins admitted he had had only four hours sleep after successfully defending his Olympic individual pursuit crown Saturday, after which he left the doping control at 11pm local time (1500GMT). He said the next 24 hours will allow him and his team to rest for what he said will be a "tough battle".
"Denmark will give us a tough ride," said the 27-year-old Londoner.
The Danes lost one of their riders in the closing stages, but the world silver medallists still managed to post an impressive 3:56.831 to virtually book their place in the final.
One of their main "engines", Alex Rasmussen, was delighted they had achieved that aim. It was a dream that began four years ago when their coach Heiko Salzwedel started them off on four old-fashioned endurance bikes.
"We're full of confidence. Of course Britain are the favourites, but the way we rode today was just a perfect ride," Rasmussen told AFP.
He said their strategy had been to start fast, and reel in the French quartet they were racing against in a bid to give them a target.
"We wanted a really strong start so we could catch them later, then it makes it much easier when you can see them on the straight. It gives you a big boost at the end."
British coach Matt Parker believes a new world record could be set on Monday, but - having made plans to make the final in a world record time two years ago - he believes his team are up for the challenge.
"We sat down two years ago and spoke about riding a (four minutes) 55.3," he said. "You always have to look aiming to improve times in sport. The boys are confident they've got more to come."
Australia's title defence fell apart when they lost Brad McGee with four laps to ride. They eventually finished in 3:58.633, but will have to battle a New Zealand quartet that posted an impressive 3:57.536 despite losing Hayden Roulston in the closing stages.
Another of Britain's coaches, Australian Shane Sutton, meanwhile calmed fears that Wiggins's endeavours in his individual campaign for gold would make itself felt on Monday.
"Brad will be fine," said Sutton. "It would (have to) be a brave man going into the Olympic final without Bradley Wiggins. Even half of Bradley Wiggins would do."
Hoy, Kenny set record pace in men's sprint qualifying
Newly-crowned Olympic keirin champion Chris Hoy of Britain staked his claim for a third gold medal at the Beijing Games with a new Olympic record on Sunday.
A total of five riders went under Australian Gary Neiwand's 12-year-old Olympic record of 10.129 seconds for the 200m flying start which marked the opening of qualifying for the sprint competition.
Hoy, the reigning world sprint champion, was last to go from the 21-man field and came over the finish in a stunning time of 9.815secs. England's Jason Kenny, who along with Hoy and Jamie Staff grabbed Britain's first track gold of the Games on Friday in the team sprint, also broke the old Olympic record in a time of 9.857.
The first to break Neiwand's record, set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was Germany's Stefan Nimke, who posted 10.064 secs. French duo Mickael Bourgain and Kevin Sireau set respective times of 10.123secs and 10.098secs.
Theo Bos meanwhile provided further proof he will need to produce something special in the tournament, considered the blue riband event of the track, after clocking a mediocre time of 10.318secs. The Dutchman won sprint silver at Athens behind Australian Ryan Bayley, but has been complaining this week he is unhappy with his times.
Bayley clocked 10.362secs while compatriot Mark French came over the finish in 10.337secs.
Edinburgh-born Hoy, who won gold in the now defunct Games event of the kilometre in Athens, now has three Olympic gold medals to his name.
Pendleton fastest in women's sprint qualifying
Victoria Pendleton of Britain staked her claim for a first Olympic gold by setting a new Games 200 metres record on Sunday.
A total of three women broke Australian Michelle Ferris's 12-year-old Olympic record of 11.212 seconds, set at the Atlanta Olympics, for the 200m flying start which kicks off qualifying for the women's sprint competition.
Australia's Anna Meares started proceedings in a record time of 11.140secs only for Guo Shuang of China to then send the local fans wild with a time of 11.106secs.
Pendleton, the reigning world champion in the speed event, was last to start and put her class on display by coming over the line in 10.963secs. The world record is held by Russian Olga Slioussareva, who set a time of 10.831secs in 1993.
The first round of the women's three-day sprint tournament will be held later Sunday. The quarter-finals are held Monday, and the semis and finals on Tuesday.
Pendleton faces a relatively easy draw in her heat one, the winner of which goes straight into the quarter-finals, against Japan's Sakie Tsukuda, who finished last in qualifying.
Guo is up against Russia's Svetlana Grankovskata, Meares will face the Netherlands's Yvonne Hijgenaar, whose compatriot Willy Kanis will meet Cuba's Lisandra Guerra.
American Jennie Reed, the reigning world keirin champion, has a tough heat five against Lithuania's Simona Krupeckaite.
Heat six will see Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus face Clara Sanchez of France.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© AFP 2008