Hoy and Wiggins line up for gold hat-tricks
Monday 18 August 2008
When you have six Olympic medals you start to get choosy about the next one. No sooner had Bradley Wiggins won his latest here yesterday, helping Britain to win gold in the team pursuit final with their second world record in 24 hours, than he was looking forward to tomorrow's madison event, in which he partners Mark Cavendish.
"We'll be really firing for gold," Wiggins said. "At this stage it's shit or bust. Just a medal won't do tomorrow now. It's got to be gold at this late stage."
Wiggins and his British team-mate, Chris Hoy, are in a personal race to rewrite the record books. They have already won two gold medals here and tomorrow both have the chance to emulate the achievement of the swimmer Henry Taylor, who is the only Briton ever to have won three at a single Games, at the 1908 London Olympics. Wiggins, who in Athens four years ago became the first Briton for 40 years to win three medals of any hue at a single Olympics, will also beat Sir Steve Redgrave's British record of six if he finishes on the podium.
It would be a fitting finale to the greatest performance by any British team at an Olympic Games for 100 years. British cyclists are favourites to take all three golds on offer in tomorrow's final session on the track and those victories would take their gold tally to eight out of the 10 events contested at the Laoshan velodrome. Given that Nicole Cooke won the women's road race and Shanaze Reade is the favourite to win the BMX title on Thursday, the British squad could leave China with their luggage weighed down by an extraordinary 10 gold medals.
Yesterday's gold medal race against Denmark was won in the most emphatic fashion imaginable by Ed Clancy, Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas and Wiggins. The Britons came out flying and maintained their speed to lead at every time check. By the end of the four kilometres they had all but caught the Danes and crossed the finishing line in 3min 53.314sec, taking nearly two seconds off the world record they had set in reaching the final the previous day.
"We wanted to push the Danes and make them crack a bit because we didn't think they'd be able to go as fast as they did yesterday," Manning said. "We went out even faster than we'd planned and after that we managed to hold it. Catching them and seeing them in front of us over the last six laps spurred us on and hence the time. It was just a question of holding that speed and getting the changes right."
Wiggins admitted: "We expected to win, but it's a relief to actually do it and finish the job when you're under a bit of pressure. We didn't know how much more the Danes had and I wasn't my usual self yesterday. I was a bit tired. But tomorrow I pulled up really well and was back to my usual self."
Admitting that he had hardly thought about his final race tomorrow, Wiggins added: "The madison is the hardest of the lot. You can be the strongest yet have a crash early on. But we'll be strong. We're the world champions. For me the big pressure events are over. We'll enjoy it tomorrow."
Wiggins said he had hardly had time to savour his first gold medal here in the individual pursuit on Saturday because he had had to join the rest of the team pursuiters for qualifying the following day.
"I enjoyed the individual pursuit win for about half an hour, but then the medal went in the drawer and I was thinking what a huge disappointment it would be if we didn't win tonight, even though I had one gold," he said. "All the way along the focus has been on three gold medals. If Chris and I had come away from here with one each we'd probably have been quite disappointed. I suppose you do get a bit greedy."
Had Wiggins and Cavendish worked out a race plan? "Not at all. Actually I was a bit fed up with him because he woke me up this morning, messing around in the apartment. He was running round like a schoolkid. He's up for it."
Hoy, who has already won gold in the keirin and team sprint, goes for his third in the individual sprint and was in outstanding form as he reached the semi-finals with two victories over Malaysia's Mohd Azizulhasni Awang. He now faces France's Mickael Bourgain, though his greatest challenge could come from his fellow Briton, 20-year-old Jason Kenny, who beat the experienced Frenchman Kevin Sireau and now races Germany's Maximilian Levy for a place in the final.
Victoria Pendleton is through to the women's sprint semi-finals after beating Lithuania's Simona Krupeckaite in ruthlessly efficient style. If she beats the Dutchwoman Willy Kanis she is then likely to meet China's Guo Shuang, who would have the vociferous home crowd behind her.
Rebecca Romero was unable to repeat her gold medal performance of the previous day and finished 11th in the points race, won by Marianne Vos, of the Netherlands. Romero, who had only ridden the event once before, made several attempt to break away from the pack to gain a lap but was pulled back into the pack every time. If Britons win medals in all three events tomorrow, the women's points race will be the only one in which they failed to finish on the podium.
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