Britain’s new cycling superstar Laura Trott produced an imperious display of power and determination as she thundered to her second Olympic gold medal in the Women’s Omnium. Trott, 20 went into the final race of the 6 discipline event needing to finish three places ahead of rival, American Sarah Hammer. The youngster did just that, and with it, has become an overnight sensation and the natural successor to Victoria Pendleton.
With the weight of the nation on her twenty year old shoulders, the World and Commonwealth champion showed resilience like no other in the gruelling marathon to come out on top. Winning the flying lap and a thrilling elimination round, 10th in the points race (her weakest discipline), third in the scratch race and a close second to Hammer in the individual pursuit; just three points separated the two going into the final round, the time trial. Hammer, the model of consistency had kept Trott in her sights at all times, never finishing more than two places behind the Brit in any race. The battle was on.
With the riders setting off two by two in reverse order of ranking, the stage was set perfectly for a two lap sprint between Trott and Hammer to determine the Gold. Competitor after competitor took to the velodrome and battled it out, each taking a turn to top the leaderboard; while all the time knowing that none of them would stay there at the end; as inevitably it was going to be either the Brit or the American.
Despite tailing off badly in the competition, one rider who was certainly going to cause ruptures in the 500m sprint was France’s Clara Sanchez, who easily staved off the presence of South Korea’s Lee Min Hye to put in a time of 35.451 seconds. Sanchez who finished second in the flying lap went into the provisional lead, producing a time that would be very significant come the end.
Lap gasp efforts for the podium positions for Canadian Tara Whitten and Belgium’s Jolien D’Hoore proved in vain as each had disappointing time trials, finishing in 8th and 12th respectively. However, they were both safe in 4th and 5th in the overall standings, far enough ahead of Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands.
Keeping herself in contention throughout the competition was Australia’s Annette Edmondson, who only once failed to finish outside the top four (points race). A sure bet for a medal of some colour, she still had to complete the job, and boy did she. The twenty year old from Brisbane, up against Whitten got off to a flying start, immediately bolting from the blocks and into an early lead. Over the next two laps, Edmondson built up a commanding lead and took the win by 1.4 seconds. With it, Edmondson was guaranteed the Bronze.
And so it all came down to the final two lap shoot out between Sarah Hammer and Laura Trott. The British crowd, already completely immersed in cycling fever expected. The nation expected. As the riders took to the track, a bellowing echo reverberated around the velodrome. Into the blocks they both went, the ubiquitous calming hush sound rang out to silent the exuberant crowd. In less than forty seconds, the Gold medal was to be decided.
Through a barrage of noise, it would be understandable if Trott felt the nerves, but shooting out of the blocks like a rocket, it didn’t look like it. The Brit got the best start and pulled away immediately, setting the second fastest first lap of the time trial. And what was more, she beat Hammer by 0.7 seconds who could only managed the sixth best time. Suddenly, it was a foregone conclusion, and Hammer’s Silver medal was in danger.
The bell rang for the final lap and with it, the expectant home crowd began to get more and more excited as they sensed victory was imminent. Trott kept pushing on regardless and set the fastest time of all to comprehensively win her second Gold medal of the games. The crowd erupted and Trott raised her hand in salute on her slow down lap. Stopping at the side to greet her family and friends, “Trotty” raised the Union Flag amidst chants of “Laura, Laura” to a jubilant home crowd. Hammer’s second lap fightback was enough to earn her the Silver medal as she finished the time trial 4th fastest. One position lower and that medal would have gone to Edmondson who must have been dreaming at one stage.
Trott’s victory capped off a glorious summer Olympics for British cycling and a fitting tribute to retiring Victoria Pendleton. Cycling in Britain has never been so successful and there is a clear change of the guard, as one legend bows out, another one may just be blossoming.