By Justin Davis, AFP
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11.59am
Britain dominates track cycling with seven golds
Chris Hoy was unstoppable in the men's sprint final against Jason Kenny AFP/Getty Images
Flying Scotsman Chris Hoy equalled a 100-year-old British Olympic record on his way to winning his third gold medal of the Beijing Games on Tuesday. Now the 32-year-old from Edinburgh really can think about forgiving the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Hoy was distraught in the aftermath of Athens, where he claimed his first Olympic gold in the kilometre, when the UCI picked the event as the one to make way on the Games programme for BMX. But that decision has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
After four years of hard work trying to turn his formidable four-lap time trialling skills into ones with the power and acceleration needed for the sprint and the keirin, Hoy is now Olympic champion in both. After being presented with a bouquet of flowers by UCI chief Pat McQuaid as he stood on the podium, Hoy said the world cycling chief had attempted to make peace.
"Pat said to me, 'you've got to forgive me now, you've won three gold medals!'" said Hoy, who on Tuesday became the first British athlete since swimmer Henry Cotton in 1908 to win three gold at a single Olympics.
In a campaign which has also given him gold in the team sprint and the keirin, Hoy admitted he'd been programmed by team bosses to "race like a robot".
But when it came to the podium, emotions came flooding through.
"It's a relief it's all over. You try to keep your emotions capped through the whole campaign, I've been trying to operate like a robot, but sometimes you're only human," he added.
His form early in the Olympics, when he helped Britain to team sprint gold with Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff, proved a boon for former teammate Jason Queally, the kilometre champion from the Sydney 2000 Games.
"Jason Queally put 50 quid (pounds) on me (to win), so I think he's won two and a half grand!" said Hoy.
It was an historic sprint win for Hoy, who had to put team loyalties to one side as he fought to prevent an upset from English teammate Jason Kenny. Kenny, a 20-year-old from Bolton, picked up the silver. The bronze medal went to Mickaël Bourgain of France after he dominated Germany's Maximilian Levy in a third leg decider.
Kenny admitted he had to pretend he was not racing against Hoy, who regularly beats him in their training sessions.
"I just tried to put it to the back of my mind. He's only human and he's got strengths and weaknesses. Well, maybe not so much weaknesses, (more) weaker strengths," said Kenny. "I raced it to win, I honestly believed I had a chance in that race. I gave it everything I had and in the end Chris just got the better of me.
"We are teammates and we train every day together. Nobody deserves it better than Chris."
Compared to the big and powerful Hoy, Kenny is slight - albeit with the big legs needed for track's demanding speed events.
"Chris is a big, strong guy and he's got a big, long sprint. He's really hard to race against," added Kenny. "He's probably the closest thing to the full package."
Hoy now has a total of five Olympic medals, four of them gold. And he admits Kenny will be one to watch for the London Games in 2012, when the Scot will aim to add to his medal collection.
"I hope I can hang on to him (Kenny) till then," said Hoy. "I've been training with him all year, and been keeping my eye on him. I half thought this (final) might happen.
"Jason is such a talented kid, he's so skilful, so fast and he's got it up top as well. He's very sharp and keeps it cool. He's definitely going to be a big champion in the future."
British sprint coach Iain Dyer deserved a pat on the back as well on the night he saw Victoria Pendleton claim gold in the women's sprint. He is just thankful the UCI made the decision they did.
"I just thank the UCI for making his last event defunct." he said. "It has proven to be the an absolute rebirth of the guy. All the years and the work of preparation for the kilo are paying off for him as a sprinter."
Women's sprint: Pendleton inspired by Hoy to gold
Victoria Pendleton admitted that winning a maiden Olympic gold will take a while to sink in. After capping a tough, three-day tournament to win the women's sprint ahead of brave Australian Anna Meares, the Englishwoman's emotions were all tied up by her gold-winning teammate Chris Hoy.
"I had more emotions watching Chris!" she said.
On a day that took Britain's track cycling medals haul to a stunning 12 with seven gold, Chris Hoy's third gold of the Games was the icing on the cake.
Pendleton came into the Games as a three-time defending world champion and in the three-lap event - in which tactics play as much a role as leg power - she was unstoppable. Although benefting from the tactical nous of Germany's former world champion Jan van Eijden, now a coach with the British team, Pendleton said the influence of Hoy at the British team's training sessions has been massive.
"I'm lucky to be training with him, he's a real inspiration," added the 27-year-old. "Because the level of the team is so high, you have to contend with that in the training sessions. They are so competitive, it's just moving everyone on to a new level.
"I didn't feel a real member of the team until I got my medal," she added. "There was no other option, there was so much pressure. I tried not to think about gold, because in the sprint competition it's not necessarily the fastest who wins. It comes down to tactics.
"Every race you win it makes you more important for the next one, but you can't take anything for granted. That's why the event is as hard as it is."
Meares' silver medal is one better than her third place in the sprint in 2004, and was the only medal won by Australia's track team at the Games. In Athens they topped the table with five gold and nine in total. Given the circumstances, it might as well have been gold. Seven months ago Meares escaped permanent paralysis after sustaining neck and back injuries from a crash in Los Angeles in January. She came home in a wheelchair, but battled self-doubt and physical pain to get to the Games.
"To just qualify for the Games was amazing. The silver medal might as well be gold. It means the world to me," said Meares, who in Athens won the 500 metre time trial crown - an event which has been axed from the Olympics.
Guo had battled Meares for a place in the final and beat the Australian 2-1. However Guo was disqualified by the race jury for entering Meares' lane as they rounded the final bend in the decider. She went on to dominate Dutchwoman Willy Kanis to win bronze, handing China their first track cycling medal of the Games and just the second in Olympic history following Jiang Yonghua's silver medal from the 500 metre in Athens.
"I'm satisfied. It makes me even more excited about the future. I think I've got room for improvement," said Guo, who admitted the decision to relegate her was the correct one. "It was a fair decision," she said.
Argentina win men's Madison gold
Argentina's Juan Curuchet and Walter Perez grabbed Olympic gold in the men's Madison on Tuesday when all three medals were decided on the last lap's 10th and final sprint.
Spain finished second to take the silver with Russia winning the bronze.
Perez said the victory was a going-away present for Curuchet, who is retiring after the Games.
"I promised to give a gift to Juan," Perez said. "It's his last race, and I promised a medal. I lost seven kilograms. I made a big effort to reach this race in good form."
Curuchet was delighted with the golden send-off.
"This is a great result for us," he said of Argentina's first gold in Beijing. "This is my last race, and I wanted to go out with a medal."
Britain's pursuit and team pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, aiming for a record-breaking third gold medal of the Beijing Games, was never in contention with teammate Mark Cavendish.
Argentina's pairing were a constant threat for their rivals in the 50km, 200-lap race where points can be won at intermediate sprints. Argentina finished with only eight points, but that was enough to keep Spain, on seven, down in second place.
Russia finished with six as all the other teams, including Britain, finished variously with more points but crucially a lap behind the podium finishers. Argentina took a full five points for winning the third sprint, and after the fourth sprint they managed to gain a lap on the field.
"We had a good strategy with gaining a lap and staying on the lap," Curuchet said.
Spain and Russia then went on to lap the field, allowing them a cushion.
It means Spain's former seven-time world champion Joan Llaneras, who won the points race, will go home with a silver and a gold. The 39-year-old previously won silver in Athens and gold in Sydney, both from the points race. He, too, is calling it a career.
"I said to my wife, 'I suffered a lot,'" he said. "This was the last race of my career. Maybe I should rethink about the decision, but it is final."
Llaneras and teammate Antonio Tauler were especially pleased since they were only thrown together as a team after Llaneras's former partner, Carles Torrent, was hurt in a race.
"It's the first time we race together," Llaneras said. "We have only trained together a couple of times. Carles Torrent fell in a race in Portugal and broke his leg. Only three weeks ago, Tony knew he was going to do the Madison."
Britain finished way down the field. It meant that Wiggins will not become the Olympics' all-time leading medals winner from track cycling. Wiggins won his sixth Olympic medal, a gold, from the team pursuit on Monday to equal the all-time number of medals won in track - previously held by American Burton Downing, who won all six of his medals at St Louis in 1904.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008