The women's sprint final came down to an emotionally charged pairing between three time sprint world champion Victoria Pendleton (Great Britain) and Athens 500m gold medallist Anna Meares (Australia). Pendleton, buoyed by the success of her British team, powered away from Meares in two rides to take home the gold.
Pendleton expressed disbelief at finally winning Olympic gold. "I keep wanting to pinch myself, thinking I'll wake up. I knew my speed was good from the qualifier and first rounds, but I was such a mess because I wanted it so badly. I had to focus on the process to get through it."
Meares was ecstatic with silver, after battling back from injury. "I can't begin to tell you how much this means to me," she explained.
"Silver could be good as gold for me right now. It's been a tough run, for sure, but an amazing journey. To be seven months out from the Olympics and have a crash that fractures two vertebrae, and you could be a quadriplegic ... so many things go out the door, you think your Olympic dream is out the door. I have worked really hard, and fought hard. This is worth all the efforts to get back on the bike."
The 24-year-old from Blackwater in Queensland, Australia was the victim of a high-speed fall at the Los Angeles World Cup meeting in January that fractured her C2 vertebrae and right collarbone; left her wheelchair bound and resulted in her only securing her berth for Beijing in June.
Meares' run to the gold medal ride off was nothing short of dramatic either.
A nerve-wracking, physical and controversial semi-final tussle against the fancied Shuang Guo (China) saw the pair got to three rounds before the final spot in the final against Pendelton could be decided.
The first two rounds were straight forward enough with each rider taking one win each to force the decider.
The third race was laced with drama. Guo fell on the back straight midway in the second lap and the restart took the tension to a higher level. Guo led until Meares snuck through on her left at the bottom of the track on the final bend into the finishing straight where the pair exchanged in a little niggle with their elbows. The pair drew level as they crossed the line, with Guo just getting the better of Meares.
But it wasn't over. After reviewing the race the judges relegated Guo to second and therefore for bronze medal ride off, for riding into Meares' sprinting lane, an automatic disqualification.
Meares' medal was the first and only medal for Australia at this Olympics, making it their worst Olympics campaign since Moscow in 1980.
In the bronze medal final it was Guo who surprised by beating Dutch former BMX world champion Willy Kanis in two rides. The Chinese hero thrilled the crowd by besting Kanis to secure her country's first cycling medal of the Games.
Hoy, Hoy, Hoy!
In the men's sprint final, Great Britain's Chris Hoy secured his third gold medal of the Games with a no-contest two ride win over his own team-mate, Jason Kenny. The Scot dispatched his younger competitor with ease to hand Britain its seventh gold medal of the track cycling events. Hoy, who switched over to the sprint after taking the gold medal in the kilometre time trial in Athens, was amazed that he was able to make the transition so successfully.
"A year ago I wouldn't have believed it," commented Hoy on his third gold of the Games. "It's such an achievement. All the build up of emotions that evaporated at the finish line. It's like nothing else."
Despite having defeated Kenny soundly, Hoy tipped his 20-year-old countryman as the rider he expects to take his place as the top sprinter in the world. "This is the man who's going to win it in London."
In the bronze medal final, Mickaël Bourgain salvaged the pride of the French sprinters by taking home the bronze in a closely fought three-ride battle against German Maximilian Levy.
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