RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) — Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic champion in the women’s team pursuit, delivered a record-breaking ride in the Rio velodrome Saturday to defend the title and claim gold once again. Team GB completed a sweep in the event after the men’s victory Friday despite the best efforts of a young American quartet that took silver.
Elis Ligtlee of the Netherlands, however, managed to deny the Brits of a second Olympic victory minutes later in the women’s keirin final, capping off quite a show for Dutch trackies in Rio Saturday; Ligtlee’s compatriot Laurine van Riessen had managed to pull off one of the most impressive bike-handling feats on the track this year in the earlier rounds to avoid a crash.
Great Britain smashes world record to win women’s team pursuit over U.S.
Britain smashed its own world record to win Olympic gold in the women’s team pursuit. It was the third time in the space of 48 hours that the quartet of Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker, and Joanna Rowsell-Shand had set a new world mark in the 4km race. The 2012 London Olympic champions beat a world-champion American team by more than two seconds in the final at the Olympic velodrome.
The U.S. had briefly taken the world record in their morning semifinal but Britain, who first broke it on Thursday, improved on that in both their semifinal and final.
“In the semifinal we rode more within ourselves, the girls came off the track saying that was about 80%,” said Rowsell-Shand, who as part of the winning team four years ago alongside Trott and Danielle King, when the women rode 3km in a three-rider team.
“All we had to do in that ride [the semifinal] was beat Canada, which we did, so we thought we might go a bit quicker in the final, but we also thought we might run a bit closer with America.
The Americans got off to a faster start in the final and were up by half a second after the opening 250-meter lap.
But the Brits went ahead definitively 1.5km into the race and from there they simply put the hammer down and pulled away to win in a time of 4:10.236.
“We weren’t expecting to go into the lead until perhaps the final kilometer, so when our coach was walking us up [showing them they were ahead of schedule] with six laps to go, that was quite a nice surprise,” Rowsell-Shand said.
The U.S. team went almost as fast as their brief world record run of the morning but the British quartet — which broke the record in each of their three runs during the Games — proved it had an extra gear.
“We left it completely on the track,” said American Sarah Hammer, who added another silver medal to the one she earned in London.
“It shows that little teams can come out and try to play,” Hammer said. “I hope that motivated all the girls that we trained with in the last three eyars, all the volunteer staff that we’ve had. It’s a big thanks to them. It’s possible.”
For seven-time world champion Trott, it was a third Olympic crown. The 24-year-old won a gold medal in the team pursuit and another in the omnium in London four yeas ago.
Canada beat New Zealand to take the bronze medal.
Ligtlee stuns the favorites to claim keirin gold
In the women’s keirin final, Elis Ligtlee of the Netherlands upset the favorites to land another cycling gold for Dutch women in Rio.
The 22-year-old beat Great Britain’s Becky James into second with Australian track cycling legend Anna Meares coming third.
London 2012 champion Kristina Vogel of Germany finished last in the six-rider final at the Olympic velodrome.
Ligtlee, who stands at over six feet tall, led from the front on the final lap.
James was last at the bell and although she made up a lot of ground, she had left it too late to reel in Ligtlee.
Meares, the record 11-time world champion, could do nothing to overcome her younger foes while Vogel did not put of much of contest.
As the race occurred just minutes after Britain’s team pursuit triumph, British fans saw an opportunity for a golden double Saturday evening. However, Ligtlee’s strong ride meant Team GB was forced to settle for silver — only the second event in the Rio velodrome so far that Great Britain has not won.
“This is my first Olympics so I came here and my dream was always to have the gold medal,” Ligtlee said. “When I started here I didn’t know what my chance was and now I’m standing here with the gold medal.
“I saw Becky at the finish line so I was thinking that I had silver, but then I saw the screen and there was a ‘one’ before my name — that was crazy.”