Kiwi men's pursuit team claim bronze

MARK GEENTY IN LONDON
Last updated 07:15 04/08/2012
NZ team pursuit
Iain McGregor/Fairfax NZ
MEDAL WINNERS: The New Zealand men's pursuit team have won Olympic bronze.

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Four years on, this Olympic bronze medal shone brighter for New Zealand's men's pursuit team.

Jesse Sergent, Sam Bewley and Marc Ryan stood on the Olympic podium for a second time, with Aaron Gate the sole newcomer, as they beat Russia by more than two seconds in the ride for third place today.

They joined Great Britain and Australia on the podium as God Save The Queen rang out for the umpteenth time in the past two days at the 6000-capacity Olympic velodrome; the hosts winning gold to deafening roars with another world record, 3min 51.659sec.

New Zealand earlier lost by 2sec to Australia, for the chance to ride off for gold, but had 0.8sec to spare on Russia which marked them down as bronze medal favourites.

And so it proved as they recovered from a small deficit at the halfway point to claim bronze in 3.55.952, to Russia's 3.58.282, in a repeat of the result at the world championships in April.

"In Beijing we weren't expected to get a medal and we knew we could. There was no expectation. This time around there was pressure and expectations from us and from the media; to come away with that added pressure it feels even better," Sergent said.

"For me and most of the team, being a little bit older you can soak it in a lot more. Even the medal ceremony, it's almost like in slow motion. Last time I was more Gatey's age and everything just happened. You forget things, almost, it's happening so fast. This time around it feels better; and yet for someone like Gatey I'm sure he's going to get more than another crack at an Olympic medal."

Sergent put in a huge shift in the middle stages after they trailed by a fraction of a second at the 2000m mark.

Having made his pro tour debut in the Giro d'Italia this year, the Feilding rider showed his class by doing two-and-a-half-laps at first wheel after Ryan made a strong start. At 3000m they had 0.5sec to spare.

 "The plan was to do a double [lap] and the coach started walking the line so we knew whereabouts the Russians were. I suppose I just got my race head on and just wanted to race them and did 2-1/2, then in the end I just wanted to go to the line just to push them more and more," Sergent said.

Bewley, Gate and Sergent finished in a tight bunch, unlike the Australia ride when they strung out as they made a lofty bid to topple their higher-ranked rivals.

Westley Gough was the unlucky one of the five-man team today, having rode in the qualifying rounds. Aucklander Gate, just 21, replaced him for the rides against Australia and Russia and was basking in bronze.

"It wasn't a good feeling after that first ride but I knew I had what it took to step up again and we managed to deliver when it counted," Gate said.

"It's pretty cool. All the guys have been great and helped bring me up to where I am today. They all rode awesome and I delivered what I could."

The only one missing from Beijing was Hayden Roulston, now focusing on his road career in Europe.

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It was New Zealand's sixth medal of these Games and a welcome first podium for cycling, after their narrow miss with Linda Villumsen's fourth in the road time trial.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand women's pursuit team need improvements after they qualified fifth fastest in their event.

The team of Alison Shanks, Lauren Ellis and Jaime Nielsen rode a time of 3.20.421 for the 3km, around 0.6sec slower than fourth-ranked Canada.

It means gold or silver is out of the question but they can still book a bronze medal ride if they can be among the fastest two losers in tomorrow's first round.

Great Britain were fastest qualifiers, also breaking the world record in a time of 3.15.669. The medal rides in the women's team pursuit are tomorrow.

Natasha Hansen, the other New Zealander in action, made the second round of the keirin by finishing second in her repechage, but couldn't make the first three in her semifinal.

- Fairfax Media

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