LONDON (VN) — Facing strong competition from Great Britain, Australia and Canada, Americans Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch, Jennie Reed and Lauren Tamayo will leave London as silver medalists in the first-ever Olympic women’s 3km team pursuit.
And though the American squad made it into the gold/silver final against Great Britain, which set women’s team pursuit world records on each of its three rounds, the United States actually won its silver Saturday evening by beating Australia in the semifinal with an American record time of 3:16.853.
It was a nail-biter of a race, with Australia’s trio of Annette Edmondson, Melissa Hoskins and Josephine Tomic starting out strong — under world record pace — opening up a massive 1.7-second lead at the halfway point, with 1500 meters remaining.
The Americans slowly pulled even, their times almost tied on the bell lap with 250 meters remaining. At the line the Americans had ridden 3:16.853, narrowly beating Australia’s 3:16.935. They’d done it; at minimum, they were silver medalists.
“We knew Australia would do that, we knew they would try to put us into a panic situation,” Bausch said. “And they almost did, but we have the best finisher in the world (Hammer) to take us home.
“We knew that would be their strategy, to try to put us and try to put our coach in a panic. But I think it shows our maturity as a team that we didn’t fall for it. We knew we had to ride our schedule for the first six laps, and then try to ride their schedule.”
That ride pitted the Americans against the phenomenal British team, which disposed of Canada in the semifinal en route to a new world record of 3:14.682 with Team GB’s Laura Trott taking several monster pulls on the front, setting up an Australia-Canada battle for bronze — and foreshadowing an epic battle between Trott and Hammer in the women’s omnium, which starts Monday.
In the bronze-medal match, Canada’s Tara Whitten, Gillian Carleton and Jasmin Glaesser got out to a quicker start, Australia surpassed their pace, and in the end, they were separated by only 0.12 second; with a 3:17.915 for Canada and a 3:18.096 for Australia.
The USA changed its squad for the gold/silver round against Great Britain, replacing former world keirin champion Jennie Reed with road racer Lauren Tamayo.
“That decision was made before today,” Reed said. “It had been made before the first round. We knew our best shot would be to win against Australia, and that would set it up to give everything for that last ride. We knew our best chance for gold would be to put a fresh rider in. That’s the strategy. We knew Great Britain were in their own league.
“A lot of times you can’t replicate an effort within one hour; it’s especially tough for me, I am a sprinter, and I don’t’ know if I could reproduce that sort of performance in one hour”
As it has every night in the Olympic velodrome, the partisan hometown crowd went crazy as Team GB lined up for a gold-medal battle. And as it has every night, Team GB did not disappoint, delivering a 3:14.051 for another world record.
It was a time the U.S. squad was not going to reach. A rocky start, when Hammer tore away from Tamayo and Bausch, didn’t help — the three Americans were immediately scrambling to reach each other and ride as a cohesive unit.
“Sarah was freaky amazing today, and I was getting tired,” Bausch said. “Lauren did awesome, but it’s really hard when you haven’t been out there yet. Your legs open up after that first ride. We get better as we go, and I knew it would be gnarly for her. (In Hammer) we have the best starter in the world on our team.”
With Trott putting in a spectacular ride, Team GB was up 1.5 seconds at the 1500m halfway point, and finished more than five seconds ahead at the finish. Once again, the stadium erupted with an explosion of applause; even Sir Paul McCartney was on hand, waving a British flag, singing along to “Hey Jude.”
“It’s not often you can say you’ve waved and blown a kiss at a Beatle,” Trott said. “I’ve got a rest day tomorrow and then a day to get my head on. But for now I’ll just lap this up and hopefully come back and do the same thing (in the omnium).”
Like Trott, Hammer didn’t attend the medalists’ press conference, choosing to recover and prepare for the omnium.
The rest of the squad did, however, and Reed spoke about the pain that came with riding in the first two rounds and then sitting out not only the final, but also the podium ceremony.
“That was a bit weird,” Reed said. “We were sort of swept away, under the track, and a lady called out the name of my teammates, but not mine. It was a bummer for sure. I wanted to be up there with them.
“I guess it’s an IOC rule, but I think it’s a stupid rule. If I get a medal, why not be on the podium? It’s symbolic to be on the podium. I really wanted to be up there with my teammates. I wanted to celebrate it with them. All that said, we all know we earned it together. And we all know that we have a silver medal.”
Reed wasn’t on the medals ceremony podium, but she can take comfort in the fact that without her effort in the semifinal against Australia, the medals around Team USA’s necks would likely have been bronze.