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28th Olympic Games - JO
Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004
Track Day 2 Round Up - August 21, 2004
By Rob Jones in Athens
Records continue to fall on the Olympic track, with two other riders going below New Zealander Sarah Ulmer's old world record for the women's individual pursuit, before the world champion herself smashed it to smithereens in qualifying. In the two gold medal finals contested tonight, Jens Fiedler led the German team to the Team Sprint victory ahead of a surprisingly strong Japanese squad, while Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) beat Brad McGee (Australia) in the men's individual pursuit final.
Men's 4000m Individual Pursuit
Brad Wiggins followed up yesterday's Olympic record ride with a dominant performance against former world champion McGee in the men's IP final. Wiggins was faster at every point in the race. McGee dropped behind quickly, rallied briefly in the second 1000 metres, and then steadily lost ground in the second half of the race, finishing over four seconds back.
"This gold medal is something I have wanted since I was 12 years old, since I watched Chris Boardman win in Barcelona," said Wiggins. "This is something you expect to happen to someone else, watching on the telly. When it happens to you it's a bit of a blur.
"After Sydney, when we won the bronze, I decided to concentrate on the individual pursuit. Then, when I had such a disappointing result two years ago (at the Worlds), six of us (with the British Track Federation) sat down in Manchester and analysed what we had to do. Chris was part of that, and we broke it down, and success came right away with the world title (in Stuttgart). It has meant a little disappointment on the road with my Credit Agricole team, but this has made up for any disappointments.
"Two years ago Brad (McGee) came back to the track and took it to a new level. He raised the bar when he did 4:16 (at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester) and now look: the top seven riders (in qualifying) were under 4:20.
"Tonight's the first time that I have died with three laps to go; I literally had nothing left with a lap to go. I put everything into this day, and it happened."
McGee seemed genuinely pleased to see Wiggins win, commenting, "Congratulations Wiggo, it is a pleasure to race against you. I like the rivalry we can have on the track and then have a beer afterwards."
Afterwards he spoke about the loss, saying "This has been a rollercoaster year for me, and I think that I was physically caught with my pants down here at the Olympics. I had a Games plan, which I thought was good, but physically and mentally I didn't have it today."
World champion Sergi Escobar of Spain took the bronze medal ahead of Great Britain's Robert Hayles.
The Team Sprint showdown was expected to be between powerhouses France (the world champions), Great Britain and Germany. France and Germany qualified 1-2, with the Japanese third and Great Britain an unexpected seventh. This put the Brits up against the Germans in the first round, to whom they lost. They recorded the second fastest time of the round, but it was still a losing time, so they were out and the Japanese, who won their heat against the Netherlands, were in, despite being six-thousandths slower than Great Britain. France recorded the next fastest winning time and went up against Australia in the bronze medal race.
In the gold medal race it was Germany playing catch-up after the first rider (Jens Fiedler), and then taking the lead with Stefan Nimke and Rene Wolff. The France-Australia final was a seesaw battle that saw the French lead after the opening lap, then Sean Eadie almost bring the Australians level, before Arnaud Tournant managed to hold off Shane Kelly to give France the bronze medal.
Fiedler, racing in his last Olympics, picked up his son after the race and rode around the track with him. "It is just amazing for me to sit here with an Olympic gold medal - it is a dream come true for me to be able to share this with my son. This is my fourth Olympics, probably my last, so I am really emotional about this.
"I think we won here because we were the best team of harmony. I think are team spirit was very good here. In the last two and a half months I have done only jumps, jumps, jumps so I could help the team at the start."
Fiedler said that he would decide tonight about whether or not to compete in the sprint and/or the keirin. "The chance that I do the sprint is small. the keirin is a little bigger, but I decide tonight whether this was my last race."
Masaki Inoue of Japan spoke only briefly about the silver medal his team won, stating "We are very happy to win this medal, because we did not think Japan was not strong enough for a medal, but for the last two months we practiced just for this event."
Women's 3000m Individual Pursuit
Three riders were expected to dominate in the women's IP - Ulmer, Australia's Katie Mactier and defending Olympic champion Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel (Netherlands). These three riders all rode in the final two heats in qualifying, which is when the fireworks started. Mactier and Zijlaard-van Moorsel went up against each other, with both breaking the old world record of 3:30.604, set by Ulmer at the Worlds in Melbourne in the spring. Mactier was the quicker of the two, mainly because of her fast start, the fastest opening kilometre of any rider. Zijlaard-van Moorsel gradually made up time over the remaining two kilometres, but not enough to erase the difference, allowing Mactier to claim a new world record of 3:29.945. Her reign was brief, because in the next heat Ulmer smashed the time by over three and a half seconds with a stunning 3:26.400.
In the next round both Mactier and Zijlaard-van Moorsel went faster, but not fast enough - Ulmer recorded the fastest time in her heat (although slower than her new world record). Mactier was six-tenths of a second faster than Zijlaard-van Moorsel to get the other gold medal race spot, while Zijlaard-van Moorsel will go up against Katherine Bates (Australia) for the bronze.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the only double session day on the track, with Sprint and Team Pursuit qualifying in the morning, followed by the women's individual pursuit medal round in the evening and the first rounds of the Sprints and Team Pursuit.