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29th Olympic Games - JO
Beijing, China, August 9-23, 2008
Event 8 - August 15: Men's Team Sprint Final
Britain motors to gold
By Laura Weislo
Using high-tech bicycles, special rubberized skinsuits and a new secret weapon in 20-year-old Jason Kenny, the British men's team sprint squad stormed to a gold medal in Friday's final, besting the French by more than half a second. The world champion team of Grégory Baugé, Kévin Sireau and Arnaud Tournant never challenged the Brits, who were fastest at each lap.
Lead man Jamie Staff pulled ahead of France's Baugé, and by the time second man Kenny pulled off to let Scot Chris Hoy finish the race, the Brits already had a four-tenths of a second lead.
Hoy, who won gold in the kilometre in Athens, said that winning as a team was a completely different experience. "As part of a team, you can't let anyone down," he said. "To beat [France] by half a second made it that exciting. Honestly, it took every inch of effort in beating the French who have been invincible.
"We have really put all the pieces of the jigsaw together. We really focused on the details. To stick half a second into them, it's amazing," Hoy said.
Hoy credited his young team-mate Kenny with giving the team the extra measure it needed to get ahead of the world champion French team. "He's young and talented and not fazed by the pressure at all, he's perfect for the team."
For the 35-year-old Staff, the Beijing Games were his last chance at an Olympic gold, and the achievement of this goal hadn't quite sunken in. "We were very disappointed after Athens," he said. "I gave absolutely everything I could. We have a fantastic team, we showed the whole world our strength. We train a lot and we try to be as meticulous as possible in what we do."
The French team was visibly disappointed after having soundly defeated the British for most of the season. "It's really impressive," said Mickaël Bourgain, who replaced Tournant in the first round but was back on the bench for the final. "Technically, their team sprint is catastrophic. Their start is not consistent. Hoy ends up several metres behind ... and they win anyway. Physically, they are above us."
Earlier in the day, the British had done the unthinkable - they eclipsed the 43 second barrier (42.950 seconds). "We did not think it was possible," said the French coach Florian Rousseau. "It was quickly apparent that they had made much progress since the World Championships in Manchester," added sprint coach Gerard Quintyn.
While there is no official world record for the team sprint as it is contested over three laps, regardless of the length of the track, the British team's ride was the fastest ever recorded on a 250m velodrome.
In the bronze medal final, the Australian team of Ryan Bayley, Daniel Ellis and Mark French put in a strong challenge against the Germans, and led after Bayle, the two-time gold medallist from Athens, took the first lap against Rene Enders. But the Aussies could not match the pace of Max Levy and Stefan Nimke on the final two laps and finished eight thousandths of a second off the bronze.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Casey Gibson/www.cbgphoto.com
Images by Greg Chang/PhotoSport International
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
Finals 1 Great Britain 43.128 (62.604km/h) Chris Hoy Jason Kenny Jamie Staff 2 France 43.651 Gregory Bauge Kevin Sireau Arnaud Tournant 3 Germany 44.014 Rene Enders Maximilian Levy Stefan Nimke 4 Australia 44.022 Ryan Bayley Daniel Ellis Mark French