LONDON (VN) — On the sixth and final night of Olympic track cycling, host nation Great Britain closed out its velodrome party the same way it started last week, with national hero Sir Chris Hoy wearing gold, and sprint queen Victoria Pendleton reeling in disappointment.
Hoy, the nation’s flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony 11 days ago, won the keirin gold medal Tuesday evening in spectacular fashion, taking to the front early and fighting off a late charge by German Maximilian Levy to win the final Olympic battle of his storied career.
By taking gold, Hoy became the most decorated British Olympian of all time, braking the record of five gold medals, which he shared with rower Sir Steven Redgrave for a handful of days after Great Britain’s team sprint victory. With his team sprint silver in Sydney in 2000, Hoy now has seven Olympic medals to his name, six gold. Compatriot Bradley Wiggins, who earned a gold medal in the time trial last Wednesday, also has seven Olympic medals — four gold, one silver and one bronze.
“I’m in shock. I’m trying to take it all in, but this is surreal,” Hoy said. “It is what I always wanted, to win gold in front of my home crowd. I can’t express the feelings I’m having right now. It’s just the most amazing feeling. This is the perfect end to my Olympic career. At Sydney (in 2000), I was just over the moon with a silver medal. If I’d have stopped then I would have been a happy boy, but to go on to Athens, Beijing and here, I can’t put it into words.”
The crowd was ecstatic with Hoy’s victory, which helped soften the blow that had been inflicted just moments earlier, when Pendleton had failed to tie a golden ribbon around her own Olympic career, losing the match sprint final to longtime rival Anna Meares of Australia.
A favorite for three gold medals, Pendleton instead ends her Olympic campaign with gold in the keirin and silver in the match sprint, to add to the gold medal she earned in the match sprint in Beijing four years ago.
Also highlighting the conclusion of Team GB’s dominant track performance was the gold medal awarded to 20-year-old Laura Trott, who beat out American Sarah Hammer in the women’s omnium by the narrowest of margins — just one point.
Trott first earned gold at these Games in the women’s team pursuit, setting a world record against Hammer’s USA squad, which took silver.
The following day, she won two events on the first of two days of omnium competition — the flying 250-meter sprint and the elimination race — tying on lowest score with Hammer. On Tuesday morning, Hammer won the 3km individual pursuit, taking the lead by one point. With two events remaining, the scratch race and 500m time trial, the battle for gold was still too close to call.
Aussie Annette Edmondson won the scratch race, with Hammer finishing second and Trott taking third, giving Hammer a two-point lead with the 500m TT remaining. Trott needed to finish three places ahead of Hammer in order to take gold.
As far as decisive battles go, the omnium — modeled after track and field’s decathlon to determine the best all-around rider — could not have been closer.
Trott and Hammer squared off against each other, at opposite ends of the velodrome, in the final heat, to determine gold and silver.
Complicating things for Hammer, however, were the times of Edmondson and Clara Sanchez (France). Hammer is an endurance rider, not a sprinter, and though the California resident rode valiantly, her time was only good enough for fourth, with Trott finishing first. The three placings between them was exactly the lead Trott needed; she’d won the omnium just one point.
“I cannot believe this is happening to me,” Trott said. “I was losing my head a little bit between the events because they weren’t going the way I wanted them to. I am so happy.”
After Trott’s win, the stage was set for Great Britain to close out its impressive track campaign with two final gold medals from its two most recognizable names.
And for a while, everything looked like it was going according to plan. Pendleton disposed of young German Kristina Vogel to face off against Meares, who had disposed of China’s Shang Guo to reach the gold/silver final. It was a repeat of the 2008 Olympic final, won by Pendleton.
Pendleton crossed the line first in the first round of the best-of-three sprint final in a photo finish, separated by one-thousandth of a second, at a finishing speed of 39.76 mph. Race officials reviewed contact between the two longtime rivals, however, and relegated Pendleton for deviating from her line as she and Meares both threw elbows.
Pendleton lost the next round after Meares pulled a canny track stand at the top of the velodrome between turns 1 and 2, forcing the British rider to race from the front. Meares caught and passed Pendleton on the final of three laps and, coming out of the final turn, Pendleton eased off the gas, clearly defeated. It was an anticlimactic moment for British Cycling’s veteran, and another opportunity marred by officiating, reminiscent of the passing lane violation that had ended her gold-medal dream in the team sprint last Thursday.
Afterwards, Pendleton was in tears, though she described her emotions as relief, rather than frustration.
“I’m relieved it’s all over, I’m so relieved,” she said. “(Silver) is one off the perfect result for me. To get a DQ and relegated in one championships is also a new personal best. Anna was wonderful. She did a fantastic job. She deserved it today. We have met each other on numerous occasions. When you meet a rider of that caliber, it’s always going to go either way.”
In all, Great Britain took seven of 10 gold medals offered on the track over the last six days.
With the road and track cycling events complete, and BMX and mountain biking to come, Great Britain has won eight gold medals out of 14 cycling events. Team GB took three of 12 total medals on offer on the road and nine of 40 total medals on offer at the velodrome.