Britain Beats U.S. for Gold in Women's Team Pursuit - NBC4 Washington
London 2012

London 2012

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Britain Beats U.S. for Gold in Women's Team Pursuit

Canada beat Australia in the race for bronze



    Britain Beats U.S. for Gold in Women's Team Pursuit
    The United States' team competes on their way to clinch the silver medal in the track cycling women's team pursuit event.

    The British women's pursuit team of Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell had just set another world record while winning an Olympic gold medal, and nobody could have blamed them for believing things couldn't get any better.

    Then they looked up in the stands.

    Their eyes opened even wider as Paul McCartney stood up from his seat above the second corner of the London Velodrome, clapping and playfully bowing down at them.

    "Unbelievable!" Trott shouted over the din. "Who would have expected a Beatle to be here? It's not every day you can wave and blow a kiss at a Beatle!"

    It's not every day you win Olympic gold, either.

    King, Trott and Rowsell turned in a time of 3 minutes, 14.051 seconds Saturday to shatter the world record they had set earlier in the day, scorching across the finish line a full quarter of a lap ahead of the silver medalists from the United States.

    "You never think it's going to be easy," said Rowsell, who has a condition called alopecia areata that has left her nearly bald. "It was a great surprise to see them in the last lap."

    Canada beat Australia in the race for bronze.

    "They are breaking record every time they ride," Canada pursuit coach Tanya Dubnicoff said of the British squad. "In a sense it's almost subliminal that we are in the same competition."

    The winning team pumped their fists while doing a victory lap, cheered on by McCartney and about 6,000 of their newest friends. They eventually gathered on the backstretch, draped in the Union Jack flag, and celebrated the first medal awarded in women's team pursuit at the Olympics.

    "They're in a league of their own," American rider Jennie Reed said, "and we knew that. The rest of the countries have a long way to catch up."

    Suddenly, it seems the British are heading to the podium more often than "Theme for Velodrome" — the catchy electronica number composed by The Chemical Brothers — has been piped into the spaceship-like building in the Olympic Park.

    With almost clinical precision, they've won four of the first five track cycling gold medals handed out, setting eight world records along the way.

    It's not all that different from the Beijing Games, when the team put together by performance director Dave Brailsford truly stamped its authority on the international scene. The deep, talented British won seven of a possible 10 golds four years ago, and 12 medals overall.

    They're on their way to a similar tally in London.

    Victoria Pendleton will be back to defend her gold medal in the women's sprint, and Ed Clancy is positioned for a medal in the multidiscipline omnium. Then it'll be Chris Hoy's turn in the keirin, where he'll try to set a British record with his sixth Olympic gold.

    The women's pursuit team squad sent out a warning shot to its rivals on Friday, when Britain turned in a time of 3:15.699 to break the world record it set at the world championships in April.

    The team of Reed, Sarah Hammer and Dotsie Bausch at least gave the impression that they wouldn't make it easy, breaking the American record with a 3:19.406 during their qualifying run.

    The U.S. team got off to a slow start during its first race on Saturday, falling nearly two seconds off the pace. But urged on by endurance coach Benjamin Sharp on the track apron, Hammer went to the front and pounded away for a full two laps, drawing the Americans back into the race.

    They pulled ahead of Australia with one lap remaining, and charged across the finish line to post a time of 3:16.853 and qualify for the finals.

    Their come-from-behind performance sent a buzz through the sweltering velodrome, which was packed to the rafters for the third consecutive day.

    The buzz turned to a roar when the British team came onto the track.

    Once again working in unison, the trio wearing dark blue skinsuits blistered the opening 1,000 meters. Their speed never diminished — they were a full second ahead of their world record pace by the 2,000-meter mark — and they screamed across the finish line in 3:14.682.

    It was a record that wouldn't stand much longer.

    Despite swapping out a rider for fresh legs, the U.S. team never truly had a chance against the queens of the pine wood. Britain set a withering pace early in the final and only got faster with each 1,000-meter split, ripping across the finish line as a group.

    The perfect image of teamwork to cap another perfect day for Britain.

    "It's such an extraordinary feeling right now. We wanted this so bad, and we all came together," King said. "Words can't decribe it. I've never been so happy in my life."