Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif./Ouch Pro Cycling) successfully defended her world title in the women's three-kilometer individual pursuit Friday at the 2007 UCI Track World Championships. Hammer recorded a time of 3:30.213 to lower her own national record for the third time since January as she beat Rebecca Romero of Great Britain for the gold medal and rainbow jersey.
"I couldn't be happier," explained Hammer after her victory. "The first one, of course, is always special, but I didn't want to be non-world champion this year. I mean, I lived it out all year, so I didn't want to go another 365 days without the rainbow."
Earlier in the day, Hammer clocked a then-personal best time of 3:31.359 in the qualifying round to secure the top seed and a spot in the gold-medal final for the second consecutive year. The second-seeded Romero surprised everybody but Hammer with a 3:31.894 in qualifying to set the stage for an evenly-matched competition for the world championship.
Hammer's time in the final was just over three seconds faster than Romero, who clocked a 3:33.409. "I was not surprised about Rebecca," explained Hammer. "I follow everybody and respect all my competitors. I never doubt what they can do. I was more surprised about Katie than anything. I didn't expect her to be that far off the pace, but Rebecca wasn't a surprise. She was flying under the radar maybe a little bit, but I definitely knew who she was."
Remarkably, Hammer posted a faster time in the final compared to the qualifying round just hours earlier - a feat that is rarely seen.
"We said that tonight I was going to throw it all the way down," said Hammer. "This morning I threw it down completely too, but was somewhat safe once I heard my splits and knew where I was at. I knew I was on pace to make it to the final. But once you're in the final against one other person going for that rainbow jersey, you can really kick it."
Hammer's back-to-back world titles marks the first time an American woman has won consecutive world championships on the track in over 20 years (Rebecca Twigg captured pursuit titles in 1984 and 1985).
Hammer now turns her focus to Sunday's points race as she looks to become the first American woman to win two world titles on the track in the same year. In 2006, Hammer competed in both events but an unfavorable schedule provided little recovery time between races This year though, a day off in between competition could be the deciding factor.
"I get tomorrow to relax, which is awesome. Last year I had to go straight into the points race the next day and it was a lot harder on me. I was mentally and just totally flat. I'm a little more prepared for it now and having a day off in between is going to be key."