Australian medal total hits seven
Victorian Katie Mactier finally broke the bridesmaid voodoo to claim the 3 km individual pursuit crown at the World Championships in Los Angeles. Her win along with a silver and two bronze medals on day three puts Australia on top of the medal tally with a total of seven. It also moved the Cyclones up to third on the medal table behind Britain and the Netherlands.
Mactier, who was the silver medallist at the 2003 and 2004 World Championships and again at last year's Olympic Games in Athens, had to defeat World Championship room mate, Kate Bates, 22, in an all-Australian final. She blasted out of the gate for her trademark fast start and was more than two seconds faster at the one kilometre mark. She maintained her pace with Bates unable to make headway on the deficit. Mactier posted 3'38"720 for gold with Bates claiming silver in 3'42"848. The bronze medal went to Switzerland's Karin Thurig.
"After three silver medals my first conscious thought at the end was - 'at last!'," said Mactier. "All day it felt like I was treading on broken glass because it was such a long wait between this morning's qualifying and the final. I had the fastest time in qualifying but I never take it for granted and always race every race like I'm coming from behind. It's just the way I am."
After the medal ceremony, Mactier rode a lap of honour side by side with Bates with each rider holding a corner of the same Australian flag. "We were joking before the race about the whole thing with me telling her I'd sabotage her knicks by putting hot cream in he chamois," Mactier laughed. "But we're good mates. We've been training together for the last month - blood, sweat and tears - and that brings you very close.
"I couldn't have had a better scenario," she explained. "I'm sure Kate would have preferred it the other way around but hey - she's young and has a lot of talent. She came third in the points race last night, tomorrow she's riding the scratch race and I've got my money on her for a win. I think she can take a medal of each colour home and that would be pretty special," she continued.
In the meantime, Bates is still looking to complete her 2005 World Championships medal set. "You always tell yourself you can win or you're wasting your time," she said. "But realistically Katie was the stronger rider here tonight and all credit to her. Tomorrow it's going to be me in the scratch race."
In the women's sprint, sisters Anna and Kerrie Meares faced off for the bronze medal, and the training partners used every trick in their collective arsenals to try and outfox each other. Anna, the Athens Olympic sprint bronze medallist, versus Kerrie, the Commonwealth Games champion on the comeback from a major back injury, was a battle worth seeing. Sprint coach Martin Barras had a few words with each and then left them to it.
In the first of the best of three rides for bronze Anna, 21, drew the lead position and spent most of the first two laps slowing the pace to a dead stop in a bid to force Kerrie, 22, to the front. But her wily sister wouldn't take the bait and Anna eventually opted to try and sprint away. Kerrie gave her a few metres then started to reel her in, catching her on the line to claim the first heat.
"It wasn't so much a scare as a wake up that I shouldn't have done that," said Anna of her first heat defeat, as Kerrie helpfully suggested 'Oops' might explain it. "I made sure I didn't do it twice," she said, crossing the line first in the next two heats to secure bronze. "It was really hard because we knew each other so well and neither of us wanted the front," said Kerrie, proudly watching her younger sister receive her bronze medal. "We train together practically every day and know each other's strengths and weaknesses so it's tough to try and figure out something like a plan."
Both riders will race in the keirin tomorrow with Anna tipping Kerrie as a big chance. "This is the first time she's got through to a sprint final in three years and at the stage she is with her recovery I think it will suit her down to the ground," she said. "She's going to be very tough competitor."
Australia scored another bronze medal in day three racing through the teams pursuit combination of 2004 World Champions Stephen Wooldridge, 27 and Ashley Hutchinson, 25 who were joined by Tasmanian youngsters Mark Jamieson, 20, and Matthew Goss, 18. In their first outing as a team at World Championship level, the quartet dealt with the pressure of Australia being the Olympic Champions, world record holders and World Champions since 2002 and simply delivered their best in what is a rebuilding year for the program.
"With Ash (Hutchinson) and me as World Champions in the team and now with these two young guys Australia has some great talent coming through so it (the winning tradition) will continue," said Wooldridge. "It certainly takes a lot to get into this team because Australia has an incredible amount of depth," said Hutchinson, who despite being a member of the 2004 World Championship gold medal team did not get a start in Athens. "It just shows you how motivated we are because with two new guys in the team we come away with a medal the first year after Athens."