Second sprint gold for Sam Webster
When double Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sam Webster said he gave it everything in a gut-busting victory over London Olympic champion Jason Kenny, no one could argue.
Especially when he pulled up his bike and rushed to empty his stomach contents, utterly spent after the ride of his life to win the individual sprint for New Zealand at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. Asked if it was nerves, 23-year-old Webster said it was pure exhaustion.
"God no. I was not good. I had a bit of a vomit in the pit after that third ride. I had to empty the tank. That was complete and utter fatigue. That's legs full of lactic acid at maximum capacity," said Webster, wearing the gold medal presented by Hoy and a weary grin.
"Going into that last ride I knew I had to do that. I had to push Jason and make him work. He had an extra ride in his legs and he was going to feel the burn a couple of seconds before me. I had to drive for home."
The track sprint is a gripping, high octane sporting contest and this was one of the best as it went to the third race. It pitted England's sprint golden boy against the Kiwi who, with Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins, beat him to gold as part of the team sprint the previous night.
Webster made a huge statement in race one, going wide and high then crossing Kenny with a blistering sprint with half a lap remaining. Then in race two, Kenny sat behind Webster and timed his surge to perfection to nab him on the line.
It looked as if Webster may have lost his chance but he left it all on the track in race three, putting the pedal down and pinching a crucial break down the back straight to hold off Kenny by half a wheel.
"In the second race he had the tactical upper hand and got me on the line so I knew I had to just empty the tanks. There was nothing else going through my head apart from 'empty the tanks, he's got one more ride in his legs than me, just dump it'.
"I went for it and to cross that line in front of him was absolute joy. It wasn't relief because I was heading into that race not willing to lose."
Victory also broke an Australian stranglehold on the Commonwealth Games individual sprint. Aussie riders had won the last 11 sprints dating back to 1970, and Webster was the first Kiwi to crack it.
It was New Zealand's third medal today at the velodrome after their team gold on opening night. Dawkins, beaten by Webster 2-0 in the semifinals, won bronze with a comfortable 2-0 scoreline over Australia's Peter Lewis. And in the 4000m individual pursuit, Marc Ryan snared his second bronze in as many nights after the teams pursuit.
The only downside for New Zealand was their two best duelling in the sprint semifinals, which was drawn on qualifying times.
"The last five years we've spent a stupid amount of time together and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses so you've got to poke and prod where it hurts when you race each other," Webster said.
Dawkins was philosophical, 24 hours after standing atop the podium with his mate Webster."He's one of the hardest competitors to ride against because he knows everything about me. It's hard to trick a man who knows all your weaknesses and strengths," Dawkins said.
"He's a very tactical, classy rider. We've been so close, trading wins over the last couple of years and today was his day."
The pair will meet again in the keirin tomorrow night (NZT), where compatriot Simon van Velthooven, the Olympic bronze medallist, will add to another intense Kiwi duel.
Aucklander Webster's proud parents Meren and James were in the crowd. He rated the victory a special moment but not his proudest on the track, which belonged to his world championship team sprint victory this year, and yesterday's team sprint gold.
"I always take a huge amount of pride in the team event just to do that all together is really special."
Ryan, the world championships bronze medallist, qualified fourth fastest in the 4000m individual pursuit but had Welshman Owain Doull covered in the third place ride. His time of 4min 23.559sec was more than 2sec clear. Australian Jack Bobridge won gold against compatriot Alex Edmondson.
In the women's individual pursuit, Jaime Nielsen was the best of the New Zealanders, finishing fifth, nearly 2sec off fourth qualifier Katie Archibald of Scotland. England's Joanna Rowsell beat Australian Annette Edmondson for gold.