SPORTS

British sprint team breaks own world record to win 2nd straight Olympic gold medal

08/02/2012 03:21 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy kept telling young Philip Hindes, the newcomer to their sprinting team, to treat his Olympic debut like just another training ride.

The kind that Princes William and Harry, and about 6,000 of their friends, show up to watch.

So the 19-year-old Hindes scorched the pine wood surface of the velodrome Thursday to post the best opening lap of his life, and Kenny and Hoy finished off a ride to remember in breaking their own world record and winning Britain's second straight Olympic team sprint gold medal.

"They just said, 'Take it like another training session, because it's nothing different,'" Hindes said. "I just thought about it like any other training session."

Few of those end up with a gold medal draped around the neck.

The British time of 42.600 seconds bettered the record of 42.747 that the trio had set in the previous round. France won the silver medal with a time of 43.013 seconds, while Germany managed to beat the Australian team to claim the bronze.

"We came across a very strong British team," French rider Gregory Bauge said.

Hindes replaced the retired Jamie Staff from the crew that won gold at the Beijing Games, and did so admirably, giving the home nation the lead after the opening lap.

Kenny and Hoy, two of the best sprinters in the world, only added to it.

Even the soundtrack piped into the raucous velodrome was fitting: "The Boys Are Back in Town" played after the race, and the theme from "Chariots of Fire" blared out to another cheer when the British team emerged from the bowels of the velodrome for the medal ceremony.

"Not many athletes get to compete in front of a home crowd," said Hoy, who matched rower Steve Redgrave's British record of five Olympic golds. "Very few have a chance to win a gold medal."

The French team of Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Michael D'Almeida could only shake their heads at a British team determined to build on its cycling success.

Bradley Wiggins, a three-time Olympic gold medallist on the track, sent the nation into a tizzy with his Tour de France victory, and then captured gold in Wednesday's time trial. His medal came after Elizabeth Armitstead won the silver medal in the women's road race on Sunday.

"You get goose bumps when you cross the line," Hoy said. "When you step in the velodrome and you feel the crowd and you feel the atmosphere, it's like nothing else."

It was clear from the outset that the new velodrome in the Olympic Park was fast.

The women's world record was broken by Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish during qualifying, only for the Chinese pair of Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang to lower the time.

The men's qualifying heats merely toppled Olympic marks.

China posted a time of 43.751 seconds in the first heat to successfully go off, and France lowered the time to 43.097, before the British qualified first in 43.065 seconds.

The world record didn't fall until teams were vying for spots in the finals.

France posted a time of 42.991 to briefly set a new Olympic mark, but the British team tore over the track in a time of 42.747 seconds, smashing the record of 42.914 set by Germany at the World Cup race last December in Cali, Colombia.

It was a world record that wouldn't stand much longer.

The team's epic ride in the final wrapped up a sixth career medal for Hoy, who won three golds in Beijing to become Sir Chris Hoy — he was knighted for the performance.

"I always felt my win in Athens (in 2004) was the most memorable, when I first became the Olympic champion. That was my lifetime ambition. I always wanted to achieve that," Hoy said. "And it was until tonight, when I threw my bike across the line and heard the roar."

Unlike the team pursuit, where riders race in a perfect line to establish the best possible aerodynamics, the sprint is all about raw power. Each rider completes a lap as fast as they can, and medals can be won or lost by a thousandth of a second.

Or by the judges, as it turns out.

The Chinese team thought it had won Olympic gold in the women's race, twice setting the world record along the way, only to be disqualified — the technical term is relegated — after their victory lap for making an illegal change when the second rider took over.

The German team of Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel was elevated to gold. The Chinese team wound up with the silver medal, and Australia beat Ukraine for the bronze.

"It wasn't he way we wanted to win because the Chinese girls had been fantastic," Welte said, "(but) we didn't make a mistake, and we've got a gold medal and it's amazing."

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