Sam Webster narrowly missed adding a fourth medal to New Zealand's tally as the world track cycling championships came to a close in Minsk, Belarus, today.
The 21-year-old from Auckland had to settle for fourth in the sprint, after taking eventual winner Stefan Botticher of Germany to a deciding ride in the semifinal then losing a tight bronze medal ride to Frenchman Francois Pervis, who claimed three medals in Minsk.
Webster became the first New Zealand rider to qualify for the sprint finals at the world championships. Along with Simon Van Velthooven, it was the first-time two Kiwis made it to the final eight.
"This is the first world championships that I've turned up to with really good condition. After the Olympics, we made some big changes to training and the way we approach training which gave me the mental freshness," said Webster, who defeated Olympic champion Jason Kenny in the quarterfinals.
"I am really happy. Today in the second day I did make a couple of mistakes which is why I finished fourth but that experience will be invaluable. I am happy I beat the Olympic champ two straight and took the eventual winner to three rides.
"I didn't have an easy way through and have been in some hard rides so I am pleased with how I stepped up. It was good that it came together and now gives me a good platform to build on going forward."
Webster became the first New Zealander to make a medal round in the sprints after becoming the fastest Kiwi at sea level in qualifying.
He took the honours Botticher in the first race of the semifinal, controlling the sprint and holding off the German in the challenge. The second race was the closest with the German just rolling Webster, with only 0.008 seconds separating the young Kiwi from qualification to the final.
Botticher jumped Webster from behind to take the inside run, and his sudden move gave him the winning break and a place in the final.
The 21-year-old, a former triple junior world champion, made a strong move from the front in the first race in the bronze medal rider against Pervis, but the Frenchman got over the top 10m from the line to go one-up.
While Webster challenged strongly in the second, Pervis had too much power.
The New Zealand team of five finished with the gold medal to Aaron Gate in the omnium, and silver medals to the team sprint and Van Velthooven in the 1km time trial.
- © Fairfax NZ News