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Gallant top five for women’s team pursuit

14 August 2016

CYCLING – TRACK: Australia’s women's pursuit team might be leaving Rio without a medal, but they certainly won the country’s hearts with their determination and fight to courageously finish fifth overall in Rio on Saturday.

Still showing visible signs of injuries sustained in Monday’s training crash which nearly threatened to end their Olympic campaign before it started, the quartet of Annette Edmondson, Ashlee Ankudinoff, Amy Cure and Georgia Baker dug deep on Saturday to defeat Italy in their final ride.

“I mean it hurt, but not as much as missing out on the Olympics," said Ankudinoff, who battled an injured AC joint in her shoulder and bruised sternums and ribs just to make it to the line today.

“It was definitely playing on my mind but my legs were screaming more than my chest was hurting so I knew I just had to push through it and help these girls get a fifth so it was worthwhile.

“We’re just happy we got to do a ride and do Australia proud.”

Australia – 2015 world champions and world record holders – entered Rio as a major contender in a very strong field. However with all but Edmondson, including additional team member Melissa Hoskins, coming down in the training crash, the team was faced with an epic challenge before they hit the start line.

But in true Aussie spirit, the team gave it their all to post the third fastest time in Thursday’s qualifying to set up Saturday’s first round clash with reigning world championships USA.

Knowing a win would send them to the gold medal final, Australia went hard from the gate and established a lead of two-tenths after three laps. But even after two days of much needed rest and recovery, they didn't have quite enough to surpass the Americans who went on to blitz the track in a world record time (4:12.282) and move through to the gold medal final.

Great Britain then bettered the new world mark in the very next ride (4:12.152) to set up a clash with USA for gold. The Australian team’s brave charge at a heroic medal ended as they finished third fastest of the remaining teams, behind Canada (4:15.636) and New Zealand (4:17.592) who would go on to the bronze medal final – won by Canada.

In the ride for fifth place against Italy, debutant Ankudinoff came into the team for Hoskins and led the team from the gates, achieving an advantage of over half a second at the halfway mark.

The team continued to drive towards the top five, powering to the finish (4:21.232) to win by over seven seconds, while Great Britain claimed gold in yet another world record, this time posting 4mins 10.236 to claim their second straight gold.

Debutant Baker was proud of the way the team fought back for fifth.

“It was our main goal to come here to the Olympic Games to win gold and we’ve had some really unfortunate events that happened in the last week but I think we should all be really proud,” debutant Baker said.

“It just goes to show how tough me and my team mates are. Just to ride, I think it goes to show how strong we are.”

Edmondson will have a rest day on Sunday, before commencing her tilt at the omnium podium on Monday. The two-day competition will be decided on Tuesday, with the 2012 London bronze medalist Edmondson considered one of the favourites for gold.

In the men’s sprint, Matthew Glaetzer has launched into the bronze medal final while Patrick Constable finished eighth overall in the competition

The third fastest qualifier on Friday, Glaetzer (9.704) continued his form on Saturday blasting past German Maximilian Levy in the 1/8 finals to move straight through to the quarterfinals.

The luck of the draw saw a repeat of the 1/16 match up, with Constable facing Callum Skinner in the 1/8 finals. Despite a strong ride from the young South Australian, the Brit was just too good for a second time, forcing Constable to take the scenic route through the repechage.

But Constable - second youngest in the field - was up to the challenge, taking the win and catapulting himself into the top eight of the blue riband sprint event while in his Olympic debut.

In the quarter-finals, Glaetzer easily accounted for Germany’s Joachim Eilers in two strong displays, however Constable met the might of defending Olympic champion Jason Kenny (GBR), with the Australian unable to repeat his effort in January where he defeated Kenny at the Hong Kong World Cup.

In the semi-final, Glaetzer was edged by Skinner in two rides, and will now meet Denis Dmitriev for bronze after Kenny accounted for the Russian.

Constable finished eighth overall after running in fourth place in the 5th – 8th final.

The men’s sprint finals continue on Sunday.

Amy McCann

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