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28th Olympic Games - JO
Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004
Track Day 4 Round Up - August 23, 2004
By Rob Jones in Athens
For the first time since the track events began in Athens a world record was not set today. After three straight days of smashing records, spectators had to "settle" for Australia winning its second gold medal on the track, in the 4000 metre Team Pursuit, ahead of Great Britain and Spain. The men's and women's Sprints also continued today, with the quarter-finals rounds whittling the fields down to four apiece.
After setting a world record yesterday (3:56.610), everyone was ready to see Australia lower the record even further. However, the wind which disrupted training last week, before disappearing for the first three days of racing, returned for Day 4. The breeze didn't slow Australia too much on its way to trouncing Great Britain in the gold medal final, since their time of 3:58.233 would still have broken the old Olympic record.
Australia stayed with the squad which broke the record last night - Graeme Brown, Brett Lancaster, Brad McGee and Luke Roberts. The Brits made an adjustment to their lineup, sticking with Bradley Wiggins, Steve Cummings and Paul Manning, but replacing Chris Newton with Robert Hayles. It wasn't enough, with Australia ahead at every time check, eventually winning by over three and a half seconds.
"The wind was definitely a factor" Lancaster agreed. "Last night was perfect conditions, but tonight we weren't going for the world record, we were going for the win."
"We've had two years of pressure on us, coming into the Games." pointed out Roberts. "After surprising everyone with the world record, there has been unbelievable pressure coming in here as the favourites. There have been eight guys working towards this, pushing towards the gold medal. We are happy to be able to finish it off."
Hayles was pleased with the silver for Great Britain, but would have preferred a different colour. "It's certainly nice the get a medal, but still quite difficult not to be on the top spot. I came into the final fresh, but we were still beaten by a stronger team."
The bronze medal race was a seesaw battle between defending Olympic champions Germany (Robert Bartko, Guido Fulst, Christian Lademann, Leif Lampater) and Spain (Carlos Castano, Sergi Escobar, Asier Maeztu, Carlos Torrent). Germany led for the first 2000 metres, thanks to their fast start in the first 1000 metres, but after that Spain began to reel them in, and took the lead after the 2000 metre mark, continuing on to win by a second and a half.
The sprinters continue to work their way through the elimination rounds, with all but one of the heats in the women's quarter-finals decided in two straight rides. The odd one out was heat three between Russia's Tasmilla Abassova and Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania. Abassova took the first ride, and then the second one ended in...a tie. Right down to the thousandth of a second, and on the photo finish, there was no difference between the two riders. The win was given to Krupeckaite at first, and then taken back when the jury decided that a rerun was necessary.
It got even stranger when they had to delay to rerun because Krupeckaite had disappeared after hearing she had won the second ride, and wouldn't be needed until the end of the evening (she thought) for the third and final ride. Krupeckaite took the rerun, forcing a third race, which Abassova took, to move on to tomorrow's semi-final round. Tomorrow it will be Anna Meares (Australia) against Lori-Ann Muenzer (Canada), and Abassova against countrywoman Svetlana Grankovskaya. Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton won the ride-off for 9th place, ahead of Jennie Reed (USA), Yvonne Hijgenaar (Netherlands) and Evgenia Radanova (Bulgaria).
In the men's quarter-finals, Ryan Bayley (Australia), world champion Theo Bos (Netherlands), Rene Wolff (Germany) and Laurent Gané (France) move on, with Bayley meeting up with Gané, and Bos against Wolff. The only race of interest was between the two French riders, Gané and Mickael Bourgain. It appeared that Bourgain was holding back - not so much throwing his bike for the line as pulling back. No one is talking in the French camp.
Tomorrow we get the Sprint Finals and the men's Points Race.