Four Aussies Strike Gold After Velodrome Crash

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Ian Chadband / AAP News

In a blur of blazing saddles, Australia’s track cyclists have blasted their way to four golds on a day of shocking high drama at the London Olympic velodrome.

Georgia Baker, Kristina Clonan, along with the para-cycling duo of Jess Gallagher and pilot Caitlin Ward, began the golden feast on Sunday before Matt Richardson produced the most dazzling of Commonwealth Games sprint triumphs.

But there was massive sympathy for Matt Glaetzer, who thought he’d won a medal in the sprint just 24 hours after being flattened in a dramatic keirin crash, only to be controversially relegated from bronze.

This extraordinary quadruple triumph, plus a bronze from the para-cycling duo, Beau Wootton and sighted pilot Luke Zaccaria, came as serious questions were being asked over rider and spectator safety following a terrifying crash.

The morning session was concluded early after English Olympic champ Matt Walls was hospitalised after being catapulted over the barriers and into the crowd in a multi-rider pile-up in the final lap of the scratch race qualifier.

Isle of Man’s Matt Bostock and Canadian Derek Gee also went to the hospital, while two spectators needed treatment.

By the afternoon, though, the same shocked arena that saw so much UK gold at the 2012 Olympics was being turned green-and-gold.

“Everyone’s going crazy, winning gold. It’s a new era, everyone’s really excited and feeding off one another,” beamed Baker, the team pursuit champion, after a commanding win in the 100-lap points race which saw her win annex four of the 10 sprints.

In the individual blue riband sprint, Richardson overcame a host of setbacks before outracing Trinidad’s newly-crowned keirin champion Nicholas Paul 2-0 in the final.

Twice, the West Australian Brinkman had to win a last-race decider and, when locked 1-1 in his quarter-final with Malaysian Shah Sahrom, had an agonising wait following the crash as his decider was delayed, leaving him the serious handicap of racing the semi just 10 minutes later.

“I was struggling,” he admitted. “But the more time I got, the better I became.”

Queenslander Clonan, the last rider to go in the 500m time trial, put on a sprint masterclass too, snatching victory by just 0.060sec while recording a blistering Games record of 33.234 seconds.

They followed another emphatic victory for the tandem team of Gallagher and Ward in the 1000m time trial for blind and visually impaired cyclists with a sighted pilot.

And their teammates, Wootton and Zaccaria, then landed bronze in the tandem B sprint.

Last, to go in the time trial, Gallagher and Ward powered round the four laps in 1 minute 07.138 seconds, finishing 0.416 sec clear of Sophie Unwin, the Englishwoman left distraught after being denied a bronze in the opening day sprint because there weren’t enough competitors.

“I couldn’t be happier for them (Unwin and pilot Georgia Holt) – it’s almost as good as winning gold ourselves,” said Ward.

Glaetzer’s latest remarkable comeback act ended in dreadful anti-climax. He thought he’d edged Scot Jack Carlin in the bronze medal decider but was relegated after race commissaries decided he’d used unfair contact as the pair jostled side-by-side.

Glaetzer, who revealed he’d had to have his elbow cut open to get the splinters out after his previous night’s crash and reckoned “the right side of my body is just burnt”, was adamant he’d won one of the best medals of his career fairly.

“But it’s a bummer to end on a downer like this,” said team performance boss Jesse Korf.

“I’m just feeling for Matt – he’s shown incredible resilience and has raced with so much heart and pride.”

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