Posted by Editoress on 08/24/04
Three gold medals were awarded tonight on the track - both sprint titles and the men's points race. Mikhail Ignatyev gave Russia its first track cycling medal of the Games, with a win in the points race, and Ryan Bayley of Australia the men's sprint title, but for Canadians it was all about Lori-Ann Muenzer winning the women's sprint title, and the first ever gold medal in cycling for Canada.
Lori-Ann Muenzer, the oldest rider in the competition fought back from a first ride loss in the semifinal to Anna Meares (Australia) to take the Olympic gold medal. When Meares and Muenzer were matched up for the semifinal, everyone, including Muenzer, remembered that Meares won the same match up at the world championships - by one pixel on the photofinish. It looked like deja vu when Meares took the first ride, but Muenzer dug in and overpowered the Australian in the next two rides to move on to the final.
The other semi was an all Russian affair - Svetlana Grankovskaya versus Tamilla Abassova. Granakovskaya took the first ride, dictating the pace to her less experienced compatriot, but Abassova, a relative newcomer at this level proved to be the stronger of the duo and won the next two rides.
In the finals, Muenzer was unstoppable, showing both speed and tactical sense, and winning in two straight rides.
"I rode like today was my day, I'm in charge." stated Muenzer afterwards. "The semi was a hard one, I had to pull out all the cards, but I knew that if I could get by Anna, then I had a strong chance for gold. She (Meares) kicked my butt at worlds, and it was like deja vu (after the first ride in the semi), but after I lost the first ride I refocused and said to myself 'I have to take control'.
I think I was smarter, faster, stronger and more powerful than (anyone else) today."
The 21 year old Abassova admitted to being overwhelmed a bit in her first Games, but vowed that she would be back. These Olympics are a first for me and I did not expect any medals here. This result is enough, I am satisfied for now, but I hope in the next Olympic Games to succeed in getting the gold. That is my desire."
Meares proved to be equally in control of the bronze medal final, with two straight wins over Grankovskaya, to add a bronze medal to her 500 Metre gold and world record in that event.
"I was a bit disappointed in my performance in the semi; I don't think my legs and head were coordinated today. I pleased to win the bronze, and just proud to be able to contribute to to the most successful Australian track cycling team in history."
In the fifth through eighth place final, Venezuela's Daniela Larreal was first across the line first but was then disqualified for entering the sprinter's lane when Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite was already there. Larreal came up from below, bumping Krupeckaite, who then bounced off Natallia Tsylinskaya (Belarus) and crashed in between the third and fourth turns. Tsylinskaya took fifth ahead of Katrin Meinke (Germany) and Krupeckaite.
(Note: We will have more comments from Lori-Ann tomorrow.)
Ryan Bayley (Australia) and Theo Bos (Netherlands) easily advanced through the semifinals with two straight wins apiece, setting up a replay of the world championships semifinal between the two riders. At the Worlds Bos won the semifinal in three rides and went on the win the world title. The gold medal final began the same way, with the Dutch rider coming from behind to pip Bayley at the line. However, Bayley recovered to beat Bos in the same manner in the second ride, and then was dominant in the third ride, finishing far enough in front to raise his hand as he crossed the line. In both the first and second rides Bayley was pulling so hard on his bars that he lifted his front wheel off the ground.
"It has been an interesting week. I qualified first and Theo second. In the semi I had a reasonable race against Gane; I didn't expect it to take only two rounds. In the final it was tough; Theo is very deceptive, very fast, and I was just lucky to pull it off. After the first heat I was a little upset, I felt like deja vu from the Worlds. So I had to think through my tactics again, make some changes, and, basically, I got a lot more aggro."
Bos admitted that "It hurt (to lose) at the beginning, but when I went to the podium to receive the silver, I was already feeling better, and happier with my result. My legs were a little sore from doing the kilo and the Team Sprint, so I knew today it would be hard to get a medal. The sprint went good for me. I won the first ride in the final, but Ryan was too strong for me in the next two races; he deserves to be the Olympic champion."
In the bronze medal final Rene Wolff (Germany) powered by Laurent Gane (France) without much problem, although he was disappointed with the mistakes that kept him out of the gold medal race.
"Theo was able to enforce his tactics on me, so I was only able to react and not pro-act. I will watch the video and learn from my mistakes. Overall, my sprint went pretty okay. I qualified third, which was not as good as I hoped, but up to the semi I rode well. Unfortunately it was not as good as Theo and Ryan."
In the ride for 5th place, Ross Edgar (Great Britain) came to the front in the final turns to finish ahead of Barry Forde (Barbados).
The track events conclude tomorrow with the Women's Points Race, and the Keirin and Madison for the men.
Men's Points Race
This was a race of lapping the field, and Ignatyev was the master, lapping the field an incredible four times (at the 50 lap, 90 lap, 110 lap and 140 lap sprints). However, he wasn't alone - silver medalist Joan Llaneras of Spain, the defending Olympic champion lapped three times, as did bronze medal winner Guido Fulst (Germany), Greg Henderson (New Zealand) and Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic). Five more riders lapped the field twice.
"I am very happy, this is the best day of my life. I did not expect a medal here. I have had a lot of success in the past, but win a gold medal in the Olympic Games, that is the best moment in an athlete's career."
Both Llaneras and Fulst conceded that Ignatyev was untouchable today. "He was unbeatable today, he was the best." commented Llaneras.
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