The Kiwi quartet of Rushlee Buchanan, Jaime Nielsen, Racquel Sheath and Lauren Ellis have finished fourth in the women’s team pursuit at the Rio Olympic Games. They faced Canada in the bronze medal match, while Great Britain broke the team pursuit world record to claim gold against the USA.
Women’s team pursuit
In round one of women’s team pursuit, New Zealand went up against Poland in heat two. The Kiwi quartet decimated their opposition to catch them and eventually stop the clock with an excellent time of 4:17.592, a new fastest time for the team, putting them in a position to advance to the medal rounds, depending on the times set in the next two heats. In heat three, the USA took on Australia, and delivered a thorough beating of the Aussies, stopping the clock in 4:12.282, well clear of their opponents in 4:20.262, which left New Zealand in second with just one heat to go, meaning that the Kiwis would progress to a medal final.
In the final heat, Great Britain set a new world record on their way to a win over Canada, stopping the clock at 4:12.152, with Canada recording a time of 4:15.636. The result meant that Great Britain would face the USA in the gold medal final, with New Zealand taking on Canada in the bronze medal final.
The Canadians started the race as the favourites, and went out to an early lead, with New Zealand trailing by 0.66 seconds at the 500 metre mark. The Kiwis managed to close the gap slightly as they hit the 1000 metre mark at 0.64 down, but the Canadians opening the gap to 1.02 seconds by the 1500 metre mark. There seemed to be a gap or two opening up in the New Zealand lineup, but they settled back into form quickly, and by the 2000 metre mark were still only 1.16 off the Canadians. The gap kept growing as the teams hit the 2500 metre mark, with Canada holding a lead of 1.49, and edging it out to 1.7 seconds at 3000 metres, as both teams dropped down to three riders.
However, the gap opened dramatically over the next 500 metres as Canada put the hammer down, taking their lead out to 2.62 seconds with 500 metres to go. Canada crossed the line first to take the bronze medal in 4:14.627, with New Zealand taking fourth in 4:18.459.
In the gold medal final, the USA and Great Britain were very close for most of the race, with the USA under a second off the lead for much of the race. However, Great Britain put in a massive surge in the latter part of the race, opening the gap and setting themselves up for another bettering of the world record. Their third rider struggled on the back of the lineup in the final lap and a half, but by this time they were well clear of the USA and stopped the clock at 4:10.23, an almost two second bettering of the world record they had set in the earlier rounds. The USA took the silver in 4:12.45.
New Zealand had two representatives in the women’s Keirin, with Olivia Podmore featuring in heat two, and Natasha Hansen in round three. Podmore crashed in her heat after being caught up in a massive pileup, recording a DNF. Hansen had better luck in her heat, but finished just outside qualifying as she ended up in third, behind Rebecca James (GB) and Hyejin Lee (Korea). With only the top two riders advancing straight to the next round, Hansen would have to go through the repecharge rounds in order to gain qualification. However, she finished second in her reprecharge, behind Laurine van Riessen (Netherlands) who had earlier taken to riding on the advertising hoardings around the track to avoid the crash that took out Podmore.
Sam Webster was the only Kiwi to progress to the 1/8th final round in the men’s sprint, going up against Russian sprinter Denis Dmitriev in heat 4. Unfortunately Webster could not get the better of his opponent, and had another chance in the reprecharge round, where he finished second to Chao Xu (China). This meant that Webster would still have one more race, racing for ninth to twelfth place, and in spite of a good effort, Webster had to take avoiding action in the race, breaking his speed and leaving him to settle for twelfth overall in the sprint.