They came into the Olympic Games as reigning world champions in the event, but after being beaten by the Great Britain in the heats, the USA women’s team pursuit salvaged their Games by edging out Canada for the bronze medal.
In the bronze medal round, the Canadian squad of Allison Beveridge, Annie Foreman-Mackey, Ariane Bonhomme and Georgia Simmerling looked to be challenging the US quartet of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Megan Jastrab, and Emma White in the early stages of the race. The USA were up just one second up after 1300m, and half way through the race their margin was just 0.6 seconds. Towards the end, however, the Canadian squad yielded to the pressure of the US team who won with a time of 4:08.040.
The result comes after a year without major international competition amid the coronavirus pandemic and a serious injury to Dygert, who suffered an horrific crash at the 2020 World Championships which saw her off the bike for months.
Dygert was not made available for comment. However, her teammate and fellow Rio silver medalist, Jennifer Valente, spoke to the gathered media.
"The last year has been so difficult for everybody, filled with so many unknowns, and to finally line up after a year and a half without racing is a privilege in itself," Valente said. "We've just worked so hard to get here and I think we can all finally say that we’ve ridden the very best that we had, up to this point, and that we’re really happy with the bronze."
Asked about the uncertainty in Dygert’s form and the team’s confidence going into the race Valente said: “We all live in Colorado Springs and we all train together in Colorado Springs and so just knowing our team inside and out and each individual person and what they’re capable of. We really lined up today and yesterday and this whole Olympics relying on each other and being very proud and knowing what each person is capable of.”
Asked how it felt to win the bronze medal Valente said: “I think any time you come to an Olympics we’re lining up for gold and we’re fighting for gold and today we put together some of the best rides we were able to and today, on the day, it was bronze.
“We’re really proud of everything behind that and what this bronze means after a year and a half of not racing and really coming together and working together as a team on the day."
The eventual winners, the German squad consisting of Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein, and Mieke Kröger, repeatedly broke their own world records including in their gold medal ride against Great Britain where they went two seconds faster than the qualifying record with a time of 4:04.242.
“I think we knew records were going to fall and they put up a very, very impressive time,” said Valente.
“We knew they were coming and they put together a very good ride on the day. It gives everyone across the world something to shoot for.”
The US made some changes after qualifying third, taking out Lily Williams, who lost touch with Dygert in the closing laps of the qualifying round. They replaced Williams, who was not allowed to stand on the final podium, with 2019 junior road world champion Megan Jastrab.
"There’s four of us who finished this ride, but there's really five of us on the team that contributed to this bronze medal, and we're so proud to have Lily Williams on the squad as well," Jastrab said. "Although she didn’t ride the final round, she's here, just as much of a teammate as each of us are."
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