Britain's pursuit of perfection

Team GB secure fifth gold as the focus on minor gains pays off

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The Independent Online

Gold is not enough for British cyclists. The goal is now to crush, to obliterate, to set a standard way beyond the imagination of their rivals. The women in the British pursuit team blitzed the United States to take Olympic gold in a world record time of 3:14.051, by a margin of more than five and a half seconds.

It is becoming almost routine to report that the record was the sixth consecutive lowering of their own mark. So dominant were Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell they almost caught the American team on the final lap. "They are on a different plant," said America's Dotsie Bausch. "We gave it absolutely everything we had. No regrets."

The sentiments echoed around the cycling floor. The Australians, beaten into fourth left in tears. "We brought everything we had," said Josephine Tomic. "Set a personal best. We could not have done more. We just have to come back stronger next time." The difficulty for Britain's rivals is that the same aim is shared by the winners. The philosophy of incremental gains introduced by elite performance director Dave Brailsford shows no signing of slowing its phenomenal yield. This was the cyclists' fifth gold of the Games with the velodrome open for business for a further three days.

Sir Paul McCartney, sitting in the stands with his wife, Nancy Shevell, and daughter Stella, led the fanfare with a singalong to Hey Jude, one of many classic British anthems piped through the public address system throughout the night. Not that this arena is wanting for atmosphere. Or euphoria. Victory, though expected, was no less thrilling when it arrived, evidenced by the shiny smiles creasing the faces of the champions.

"It all came together. We nailed the first two laps, so it was great to start as we planned," the diminutive Trott said. "We set out to win but we also know that teams step up against us. We have worked so hard for this. We really came together as a three today. We could not have asked for more. Three perfect races. I can't believe we won the gold. We could not have done it without each other and the support team back at home. Our racing family have just been unbelievable."

A sentiment echoed by Rowsell. "We have the best support team in the world and that does make a difference. It is all about those marginal gains, as Dave always says. We have the best mechanics, the best sport scientists, and we all come together. Everybody deserves credit for this. It feels absolutely amazing. It hasn't sunk in yet and I don't think it will for a while."

Rowsell was already a world champion in the team pursuit but since this was the debut of the discipline as an Olympic event there was a huge incentive to cash in on gold. "They decided about three years ago to include it in the games, which was a dream come true for me. I couldn't believe it was going to be in my home Olympics and to be the first ever winners here is incredible. And we broke a world record or two along the way so set the bar really high."

And here's the bad news for those trailing in the turbulent air left behind. "We can go even faster, maybe in four years' time." Ouch. The evening session began with the repechages for the men's sprint, which was not a concern for Jason Kenny who set a new Olympic record in the morning session. His time of 9.713 for the closing 200 metres was 0.12 seconds quicker than Sir Chris Hoy in Beijing.

This brought the women into action for the first-round heats of the team pursuit. For most in the 6,000 capacity crowd, this meant a stress-free warm-up waiting for the all-conquering British trio to appear in the last of the four duels. The first appearance of brought the audience to its feet. They would of course blitz their own world record set in qualifying the day before.

Kenny was handed the challenge of following that in the heats to determine the men's sprint final. South African Bernard Esterhuizen was the poor unfortunate to run against him, if that is the right verb. You guessed it: Kenny was the one to progress and will line up in tomorrow's final.

Striking a rare discordant note from a British perspective Ed Clancy, a member of the team pursuit squad that took gold on Friday, followed first place in yesterday morning's flying lap with 11th in the omnium 30km points race.

Clancy fared much better in the elimination event, claiming fifth spot. With three disciplines to come and his weakest two events behind him, Clancy sits fourth, well placed to deliver further plunder when the omnium concludes today.

How we've beaten the Aussies…

Cycling women's keirin

Victoria Pendleton left her long-time Australian rival Anna Meares trailing at the end of the penultimate lap on Friday, and powered to victory. Meares finished sixth.

Cycling men's team pursuit

The Australians were left dazed in second place at the Velodrome on Friday, as the Britain's men's pursuit team surged to another world record.

Tennis mixed doubles

On route to the final, Andy Murray and Laura Robson bettered the pair of Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur yesterday in the quarters.

Rowing women's double sculls

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins finished three seconds ahead of the Australian pair to secure gold on Friday.

Rowing men's fours

Another final, and another win for Great Britain as the men's four edged past Australia at Eton Dorney yesterday.