A brilliant qualifying round and equally impressive 1/16 final sees Natasha Hansen on form in the Olympic sprint competition. Hansen broke her own record in the 200m flying lap as Rebecca James of Great Britain set a new Olympic record over the distance.
Podmore kicks things off
The women’s sprint qualifying saw Olivia Podmore of New Zealand kick things off. The 19 year old in her first Olympic Games went around the 200m in a time of 11.315 seconds. Podmore’s time was just 0.011 seconds outside of her personal best, set in Astana last year, but it would sadly not be enough to advance; as a whole host of quality times would soon follow. Of the 27 riders competing in the women’s sprint Podmore would go through 23rd fastest overall.
The qualifying round was dominated by Great British riders, with Rebecca James and Katy Marchant going first and second respectively. They would be the only riders to go under 10.8 seconds for the day’s qualifying round, with Marchant setting a time of 10.787 seconds. Rebecca James though was another class above, stopping the clock in 10.721 seconds to set a new Olympic record.
New best for Natasha Hansen
Behind them six riders were able to go under 10.9 seconds and in amongst them was Natasha Hansen. Before Rio, Hansen’s best ride over the Flying lap was a 10.893 second time set in Cambridge earlier this year. That all changed as the Southlander set a time of 10.871 seconds, a new best time for her; faster than the great Australian Anna Meares.
Hansen’s 1/16 final heat saw her up against Canada’s Kate O’Brien. The Kiwi had the inside line but it was O’Brien who initially took the lead over a somewhat hastily paced heat. Hansen was weaved around the track, comfortably on the back foot for now and toying with her rival. As the speed raped up Hansen hit the bell from high up on the track and carried some very fast pace, reeling Hansen in comfortably over the back straight to advance to the 1/8 final.
Glad to ditch the photo finish!
Afterwards Natasha Hansen spoke to Sky TV. “[I’m] pleased with that ride,” she said. After the disappointment of coming so close in the keirin but being denied the opportunity to advance by a photo finish, Hansen was glad that her 1/16 final was a little more clear cut. “I’m happy that it didn’t have to come down to a photo finish again. It’s just nice to go through first round.”
Despite the tension of the Olympic moment and the excitement of the biggest stage in the sporting world, Hansen was confident in her game plan, knowing O’Brien’s style and employing a good strategy to get the better of her. “I knew what kind of rider she was and that she’d want to push it from the front. So I had a talk with Anthony [Peden] and the plan was to leave a bit of space so I could get my timing better than yesterday and just come past with a bit more speed.”