Melbourne, Australia, (AFP) – The Isle of Man claimed just their third gold medal in Commonwealth history in Melbourne Sunday and the man responsible immediately dedicated his stunning win to the father of a promising youngster killed in a freak cycling accident.
In an emotion-packed night at Melbourne’s Multi-Purpose Venue velodrome, the team from the tiny island in the Irish sea celebrated alongside their near neighbors Scotland as the two comparative minnows smashed Australia and England’s golden grip in track cycling.
First it was the Scots who raised the roof at the venue, edging out the English in the final of the men’s team sprint to claim their only cycling gold medal of the games, then it was the turn of the Manxmen.
Manchester-based road racer Mark Cavendish withstood a withering sprint from Australian Ashley Hutchinson as the pair hurtled for honors in the men’s 20km scratch race. Scotland’s James McCallum claimed the bronze.
It was a victory that not even the most parochial Australian would begrudge and even more poignant when Cavendish revealed he had devoted all his energy to winning since a training accident which killed 13-year-old James Berry while he trained in the Isle of Man.
“There’s a young lad who I rode that for,” Cavendish said. “I said to his father I’ll do this for him, I’ll do this for James.”
Berry, who had been identified as a rising talent, was training with riders from the British Olympic development program on the island, including Cavendish, when a wheel came off a lorry and hit him. He died in hospital the following day.
The Isle of Man’s last gold medal in cycling was at the 1966 games in Jamaica. Their only other gold came in skeet shooting at Edinburgh in 1986. Cavendish, the reigning world Madison champion along with England’s Rob Hayles, said his win had not really come as a surprise.
“The worlds was quite unexpected. This I’ve been expecting for almost a year now,” he said. “When you haven’t got the European riders here I was always going to be more of a chance.”
Cavendish’s win only slightly outshone that of the jubilant Scots, who beat England in the final of the team sprint after Australia, which boasted dual games gold medal winner Ryan Bayley in their side, won the bronze.
The Scots team of Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean and Ross Edgar clocked a time of 44.282s ahead of England’s Matthew Crampton, Jason Queally and Jamie Staff who took 44.309 to set the celebrations rolling.
It was their first gold medal of the meeting and helped make up for the surprise defeat of Hoy in the men’s kilometer time-trial.
The Australians recorded a 44.719s in their bronze medal win over New Zealand.
“I think that was the second-best time for a British team,” said Hoy. “To step up there and do it for Scotland, particularly against England …there’s a rivalry there … it was a very special night.”
Mactier nails pursuit
The first gold of the night was collected by favorite Katie Mactier of Australia in the women’s 3000m individual pursuit.
Mactier, rated one of the world’s best cyclists in any discipline by team coach Martin Barras, lived up to expectations when she held off a strong field, setting a new Commonwealth Games record for the event along the way.
She shaved more than two seconds off New Zealander Sarah Ulmer’s record of 3:32.467, clocking 3:30.290s in her qualifying heat against England’s Wendy Houvenaghel.
Mactier’s close friend and points race gold medalist Kate Bates took silver with England’s Emma Jones grabbing the bronze.
“I’ve raced in Athens and other championships but I’ve never been quite as emotional as tonight,” Mactier said.
Mactier’s medal-winning time was 3:35.196 while Bates finished in 3:37.089. In the bronze medal race England’s Emma Jones shaded New Zealander Alison Shanks.
Aussies lead medal count
The highly-ranked Australian track cycling team finished on top of the medal table after four days of competition in the Commonwealth Games came to an end Sunday — but British riders proved they are on the way back.
The Australians devastated their British rivals in the 2002 games in Manchester where England failed to take a single gold medal.
But after four days of competition and late gold flurries by riders from Scotland and the Isle of Man, little separated the two giants of track cycling.
Australia finished the competition with seven gold, five silver and three bronze medals while England were second with three gold, four silver and two bronze.
Scotland finished the medal count with one gold, a silver and four bronze.
Combined with the Isle of Man’s gold medal and Wales’ bronze, it meant British teams collected five gold, five silver and seven bronze medals – just behind the mark of their previously unmatched opponents