For the first time since 2004, the Australian men's team pursuit squad has broken the world record. In the Commonwealth Games gold medal ride at the Anna Meares Velodrome, the quartet of Leigh Howard, Kelland O'Brien, Alex Porter and Sam Welsford rode a 3:49:804 to beat the world record set by Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The ride in the final against England is the first under the 3:50 minutes and was substantially quicker than the qualifying time of 3:52.041 minutes that featured Jordan Kerby. The team also featured none of the successful 2014 team pursuit squad who set a Commonwealth Games record in Glasgow.
At 28, Howard is the senior member of the team pursuit squad. The Victorian made the decision to return to the track last year and now has a maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal to add to his multiple rainbow jerseys on the track.
"It is a special moment. it was a big decision for me to give up the road and come back to the track, but I had a fair bit of self belief and saw it was such a special group of guys and I wanted to be part of it," said Howard, a silver medallist in the team pursuit at the 2009 Worlds.
"This guy next to me (Welsford) is an absolute machine, just to follow his wheel is a tough ask. There's definitely been some big changes since he's come on board and we've gone faster, it's as simple as that. 3:50, it's just evolution and we're not sure what the next mark is but we'll just keep striving. That's the big question but we've got to find that way."
Of the quartet, O'Brien is the youngest at 19 but wasn't lacking in experience having helped the team to the 2017 team pursuit world title. With success at the Commonwealth Games and world championships, O'Brien is already looking to Toyko 2020 and ending Great Britain's winning streak in the team pursuit.
"It overwhelms me having my parents and sisters and all my family here, it's something really special and I definitely shed a tear," said O'Brien. "A few more years (towards Tokyo) is going to be hard to stay up in the top end but the depth in Australian cycling is amazing, the culture is amazing and I'm so proud to be part of the team, and hopefully in the next few years we can step up again and show the world what our country is all about."
Since 1994, Australia has only lost the team pursuit gold medal on one occasion when the quartet of Ashley Hutchinson, Matthew Goss, Mark Jamieson and Stephen Wooldridge claimed silver on home soil in Melbourne. As the home nation, the pressure was on Australia to again deliver and to have succeeded was sweet relief for Sam Welsford.
"I'm over the moon with excitement. We're in our home country. That is what dreams are made of. This is what we strive for every day," said Welsford. "This is a dream come true. We've had our eye on the medal for such a long time, and to go under 3.50 - for that to happen is unreal."
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