Road To The Olympic Games


British cyclists win gold, set world record in men's team sprint

Britain broke its own world record set earlier Thursday to win its second straight Olympic gold medal in the men's team sprint.

Germany awarded gold in women's team sprint

Britain's Chris Hoy celebrates with his teammates after winning the gold medal. Hoy, Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny posted a time of 42.600 seconds, bettering the mark of 42.747 they had set in the previous round. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press)

Britain broke its own world record set earlier Thursday to win its second straight Olympic gold medal in the men's team sprint.

The team of Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy scorched the pine wood surface of the velodrome to post a time of 42.600 seconds, bettering the mark of 42.747 they had set in the previous round. France won the silver medal with a time of 43.013 seconds.

Germany beat Australia to claim the bronze.

The only newcomer to the British team was Hindes, who replaced the retired Jamie Staff from the crew that won gold at the Beijing Games. Hindes gave the British team the lead after the first lap, and Kenny and Hoy only added to it while being cheered on by Princes William and Harry.

Hoy blew kisses to an overflowing crowd roaring its approval after crossing the finish line, and even gave the 19-year-old Hindes a good-natured shove after the ride of his life.

Even the soundtrack piped into the raucous velodrome was fitting: "The Boys Are Back in Town" played immediately after the race, and the theme from "Chariots of Fire" blared out to another cheer when the British team emerged for the medal ceremony.

The French team of Gregory Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Michael D'Almeida could only shake their heads at a British team determined to build on its cycling success.

Bradley Wiggins, a three-time Olympic gold medallist on the track, sent the nation into a tizzy with his Tour de France victory, and then captured gold in Wednesday's time trial. His medal came after Elizabeth Armitstead won the silver medal in the women's road race on Sunday.

It was clear that the new velodrome in the Olympic Park was fast from the onset.

The women's world record was broken by Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish during qualifying, only for the Chinese pair of Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang to lower the time.

The men's qualifying heats merely toppled Olympic marks.

China posted a time of 43.751 seconds in the first heat to successfully go off, and France lowered the time to 43.097. After a restart caused by a mechanical problem, Olympic rookie Hindes led the British team to a time of 43.065 seconds to qualify first.

The world record didn't fall until teams were vying for spots in the finals.

France posted a time of 42.991 to briefly set an Olympic mark, but the British team tore over the track in 42.747 seconds, breaking the record of 42.914 set by Germany at a World Cup race last December in Cali, Colombia.

It was a world record that wouldn't stand much longer.

The team's epic ride in the final wrapped up a sixth career medal for Hoy, who won three gold medals in Beijing to become Sir Chris Hoy — he was knighted for the performance.

Unlike the team pursuit, where riders ride in a perfect line to establish the best possible aerodynamics, the sprint is all about raw power — and the British team have plenty. Each rider completes a lap as fast as possible, and medals can be won or lost for a thousandth of a second.

Or by the judges, as it turns out.

Germany wins gold in women's team sprint after China disqualified

The Chinese team of Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang  thought it had won Olympic gold in the women's race, twice setting the world record along the way, only to be disqualified — the technical term is relegated — after their victory lap for making an illegal change when the second rider took over.

The Chinese rushed to the officials table, next to the paddocks in the centre of the track, and shook their heads in disbelief while looking at the amended results on a computer screen.

Germany's Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte checked a computer screen several times and erupted in laughter and happiness as they were proclaimed winners in a time of 32.798 seconds.

"We really could not believe it when we saw it on the screen that we were Olympic champions," Vogel said. "It's amazing. It's weird and amazing."

The German team was elevated to gold. The Chinese team wound up with the silver medal, and Australia beat Ukraine for the bronze. 

Guo, a former world champion in the track cycling event of keirin, and Gong ended with the silver medal and managed a smile on the podium, but their eyes were still red with tears as the Germans waved to the crowd.

"This is a competition, so I don't want to say anything right now," Gong said.

On a frantic first day of competition at the velodrome, known as the Pringle because of its potato chip shape, British riders Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton were also disqualified for making an early change in the first round.

"Jess moved up a fraction too early, and I just saw the door and went for it, because that's my cue to try to squeeze underneath her as quickly as possible," Pendleton said.

Pendleton and Varnish had posted the second best time of the first round and would have faced the Chinese for the gold medal had it not been for their rule violation.

"It's one of those things that happens. It's quicker than a blink of an eye. You have to stick by the rules. The rules are there to make it a fair sport. Unfortunately we fell on the wrong side of that today."

In the match for the bronze medal, Australia defeated Ukraine in 32.727 seconds. Anna Meares became the most decorated woman's athlete in track cycling by claiming a fourth Olympic medal.

Meares, teaming with Kaarle McCulloch, is expected to compete in the keirin and the sprint, where she will be facing archrival Pendleton.

The British rider will retire after the London Games and is bidding to add medals to the Olympic sprint title she won in Beijing.

Pendleton won the sprint at the worlds after defeating archrival Anna Meares of Australia in the semifinals.

Britain breaks world record in men's team pursuit

Britain broke its men's team pursuit world record during the qualification round Thursday.

The Olympic championship team of Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh finished in three minutes, 52.499 seconds. The squad lowered the mark of 3:53.295 it set this year at the world championships in Melbourne, Australia.

The world record helped assuage a home crowd upset by the disqualification of the British sprint team of Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish. The team would have raced for gold against China had it not made an illegal changeover in the first round.