LONDON (VN) — It seems host nation Great Britain is saving the best for last.
Though qualifying for the women’s sprint event started Sunday morning, the final round won’t be held until Tuesday evening, the final event of Olympic track cycling at the London Games.
And if all goes as planned for British Cycling, Victoria Pendleton — the world champion in the event five of the past six years — will end the Games with yet another gold medal for Team GB.
Pendleton, who took gold in the women’s keirin on Friday, looked to be in firm control of the women’s sprint qualifying Sunday morning, setting an Olympic sprint record in the flying 200 meters with a 10.724. Pendleton beat her own Olympic record by two tenths of a second, taking top seed in the sprint tournament.
Anna Meares (Australia) qualified second with a 10.805, with Shang Guo (China) third at 11.020.
Sunday afternoon, Pendleton, Meares, Guo, Kristina Vogel (Germany), Olga Panarina (Belarus), Lisandra Guerra (Cuba), Wai Lee (Hong Kong), Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) and Lyubhv Shulika (Ukraine) all advanced to the women’s 1/8 finals.
In the 1/16 finals repechages, Natasha Hansen (New Zealand), Monique Sullivan (Canada) and Willy Kanis (Netherlands) advanced to the 1/8 finals, where Pendleton continued her winning ways, disposing of Kanis.
Likewise, Meares did away with Sullivan, Guo beat Hansen, Vogel beat Shulika, Krupeckaite disposed of Panarina, and Guerra surprised keirin bronze medalist Lee, though officials warned the Cuban rider for not holding her line in the sprint.
All six 1/8 winner winners advanced to the quarterfinals, while the losers went to the 1/8 finals repechages, where Shulika and Panarina were victorious, both advancing to the quarterfinals.
The women’s sprint continues Monday evening, with the quarterfinals and races for fifth through eighth places, and concludes Tuesday evening, with the semifinal and final, in which Pendleton, Meares, Guo and Vogel are likely to contend for the medals.
In the first heat of the quarterfinals it will be Pendleton against Panarina, Meares facing Shulika, Guo vs. Guerra and Vogel against Krupeckaite.
“The pressure is going to increase the closer you come to the final,” said Vogel, who took Olympic gold with teammate Miriam Welte on the opening night of track racing after both Great Britain and China were relegated for violating passing regulations.
“If I win tomorrow (Monday), I’ll be in the semis and that’s a very important race, because that race decides whether I’m sure of a medal or whether I have to be worried about dropping to fourth place.”
Win or lose, Pendleton will retire after Tuesday’s sprint final. And given the way these Games have gone for British Cycling, with four of six gold medals thus far in the velodrome, as well as gold and silver on the road, it seems there may be only one outcome Pendleton and her nation of supporters will accept.