The 4km team pursuit quartet of Stephen Cummings, Rob Hayles, Paul Manning and Chris Newton dominated their event to take two gold medals on the third night of racing at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. Victoria Pendleton added the Commonwealth sprint title to last year’s World Championships gold to make it a day of double delight for England in the velodrome.
The England team won against Australia in the pursuit final having been by far the fastest qualifiers in the morning, winning in a time of 4:02.699, nearly three seconds ahead of the Australian foursome. Manning, Hayles and Cummings thus added team gold to the individual medals they won on Thursday, while Newton took his first Commonwealth Games gold at this event having won silver in 1994 and 2002.
"We worked really hard for this," said 31 year-old Manning from Stockport. "We had a very respectful time in the final and are very happy. As a team we take immense satisfaction from these two rides today. It’s great when all the work comes together at a major championships like this."
England were expected to win after becoming world champions last year, and they lived up to the expectations. "This is what we came here for and we got it," said 33 year-old Rob Hayles from Derbyshire. "It was really great. After the World's we were gobsmacked. This tops it off."
"There’s still lots to come from us," continued Manning. "There are technical improvements we can make. We are always improving but then so is the level of the event. We have to keep on our toes and keep pushing for good times."
Manning said winning his second gold of the Games was not on his mind before the race. "I came concentrating on the team pursuit," he said. "The individual was just a bonus really."
Shortly afterwards, Pendleton lived up to her billing as favourite for the women’s sprint when she won the gold medal after a hard fought battle against Australia’s Commonwealth and Olympic time trial champion Anna Meares, exacting some revenge for her defeat at the hand of the Australian in Thursday’s time trial final.
"I’m really, really happy," said Pendleton. "This was my main event and because it’s an Olympic event it was my main focus." Pendleton took the first of the three races with a powerful surge from the front. Meares had twice beaten her sister Kerrie by coming from behind in the semi-finals but the rider from Hitchin was too strong and won easily in 11.822.
The second race was much closer though, and Pendleton was edged out by the merest fraction as she chased Meares home. The Australian won by the width of her wheel rim, setting up the decider: After a cat and mouse tussle, Pendleton chased the Australian hard around the final bend and just managed to push her wheel in front of the Australian’s on the line.
"The sprint is a gamble, it’s always very close so I feel great about the win," said Pendleton. "It was tough but you just have to block it out and focus."
Pendleton had stamped her authority on the event in the morning when she broke the four-year-old Commonwealth Games record with a time of 11.275. In the semi-finals she was drawn against Williams who had only made it through thanks to the repecharge. Williams was no match for the flying 25 year-old from Hitchin who won the first two of her best-of-three races with ease to book her spot in the final.
In the battle of the siblings, Anna got the better of her sister Kerrie, coming from behind in the final lap with a powerful turn of speed to win the first race. The second race had to be restarted when Kerrie went so slowly she touched the wall with her arm, but Anna was still too good in the re-run duel, setting up the exciting final.