Canada’s Kelsey Mitchell claimed the Olympic women’s sprint gold medal on the final day of the track cycling programme at the Izu Velodrome on Sunday, just four years after taking up the sport.
After edging out Germany’s reigning world champion Emma Hinze in the semi-finals, Mitchell timed her late attacking moves to perfection as she beat Ukraine’s Olena Starikova 2-0 in the best-of-three title showdown.
Mitchell, 27, becomes only the second Canadian to win an Olympic track cycling gold after Lori-Ann Muenzer took the women’s sprint title in 2004.
When asked how it feels to become an Olympic champion on debut, Mitchell said: “It sounds just like I could imagine it.
“People talk about visualization a lot in sports, and I don’t know if did it on purpose, but I could see myself on the podium.
“I decided to go and execute it.”
The victory marked a remarkable rise to the summit for former college soccer player Mitchell, who got her first taste of track cycling in August 2017 when she attended a national tryout.
Mitchell exceeded the national standards for speed, power, and endurance on a stationary bike and was instantly recruited by Cycling Canada.
She has since blitzed the field to claim the 2019 Pan American sprint title and also set the world record for the 200m time trial.
But notching up an Olympic gold represents her biggest achievement on the international stage.
“All the hard work was done beforehand, the past year and a half has been very up and down with the postponement of the Olympics and not being able to race,” Mitchell said.
“But I have incredible teammates, an incredible coach, incredible staff all around me. I knew all the hard work would pay off, and it was just so exciting to see it pay off.”
Starikova collected the silver medal to secure the best result for a Ukrainian woman in Olympic track cycling.
In a third-place shootout, Hong Kong’s Lee Wai-Sze overpowered Hinze in the opening two races of the series to take the bronze medal.
American Valente wins gold in the crash-hit omnium
Jennifer Valente of the United States celebrates with the flag as she celebrates winning gold in the cycling track Women’s Omnium Points Race on Sunday. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters
American Jennifer Valente recovered from a late crash to land gold for the United States in the women’s omnium as a memorable week of track racing concluded at the Izu Velodrome on Sunday.
Valente, 26, was comfortably ahead on points towards the end of the points race, the final element of the four-part endurance race crammed into three hours when she went down hard.
But after dusting herself she rejoined the race and stayed out of trouble to take the title with 124 points.
Japan’s world champion Yumi Kajihara also crashed in the final few laps but hung on for silver with 110 points.
Dutch veteran Kirsten Wild, 38, ended with a bronze medal, her first-ever Olympic podium despite being an eight-time track world champion.
Briton Laura Kenny’s hopes of becoming the first female track cyclist to win three gold medals in a specific event after her victories in London and Rio, never fully recovered after being involved in a huge crash in the opening scratch race.
Kenny, who claimed a fifth career Olympic gold medal this week when she won the madison, recovered to win the tempo race but a poor showing in the elimination race left her too much to do and she ended in sixth place.
Seventh heaven for keirin King Kenny
Jason Kenny became Britain’s greatest Olympian as he powered to victory in the men’s keirin on Sunday to claim the seventh gold medal of his incredible career.
The 33-year-old arrived in Tokyo tied on six golds with former track cycling teammate Chris Hoy.
He failed to add to his gold haul in the team sprint and individual sprint, looking a little off his best form.
But he saved the best to last with a virtuoso performance to win the keirin by a country mile, retaining the title he won in Rio in 2016, after Hoy had won it in 2008 and 2012.
After the electric pace bike pulled off the track with three of the six laps remaining, Kenny put the hammer down and surprised his rivals with an audacious attack.
The plan worked a treat, building a huge lead that none of his rivals could reel in.
Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang finished a distant second, while world champion Harrie Lavreysen of the Netherlands took the bronze to add to his golds in the team and individual sprint in the Izu Velodrome this week.
Kenny was lifted high into the air by Lavreysen and Awang on the podium while Hoy, commentating for the BBC, was the first to congratulate the king of the sprints.
“I have never seen a race like it, to watch the guy at the front ride off into the distance, it was just incredible,” Hoy said. “He gained a bit of height, kept the pressure on the pedal and he just went for it. It was never in doubt.
“An absolutely awesome performance.”
Kenny’s nine Olympic medals are the most by a British athlete in any sport. He had been tied on eight with fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins.
While there was joy for Kenny, Japan’s hopes of a historic gold in a race that has deep roots in the host nation ended in disappointment as neither Yuta Wakimoto nor Yudai Nitta made the final.