Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: China takes first track cycling gold on a day of records

Olympic and world records, stars in action and medals awarded: the first track cycling session of the Tokyo 2020 brought exhilarating racing on Monday to kick off the second week of the Olympic Games. The day’s main event was the women’s team sprint and it provided a fast and furious battle with the Chinese pair narrowly edging the German duo in the final after the two squads produced impressive times in their first runs.

Shanju Bao and Tianshi Zhong powered to Olympic glory (and a second successive title for Zhong), after earlier setting a new world record of 31’’804. Lea Sophie Friedrich and Emma Hinze took the silver medal and Team ROC rounded out the podium. And they were not the only ones to shine in the Izu velodrome…

Racing began with the qualifying runs in the women’s team sprint. The duo composed of Friedrich (winner of three gold medals at the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, including in the team sprint, with Pauline Grabosch) and Hinze already set an impressive time as they beat the German national record: 32’’102, half a second faster than the time recorded in 2013 by the iconic pairing of Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel.

Closest to them came the Chinese riders Shanju Bao and Tianshi Zhong (32’’135), already putting on top of the ladder the two nations that dominated the women’s team sprint in the previous Olympic Games: Germany in 2012 (Vogel and Welte) and China in 2016 (Zhong and Jinjie Gong).

The temperature rose with the different heats of the first round and the Chinese stars were red hot, posting a new world record: 31’’804! The Germans quickly replied with a time of 31’’905, setting the stage for a stellar final. And indeed, it was a fast and close duel, with the Chinese duo clocking a time of 31’’895 to beat the Germans’ 31’’980.

In the other heats of the first round, the Netherlands (32’’308) and Team ROC (33’’022) qualified for the bronze medal ride-off, where another consistent performance from the Russian athletes (32’’252) meant that it was Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova who were to climb onto the podium.

German riders also set the velodrome alight during the women’s team pursuit qualifying. Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein and Mieke Kroeger proved their collective strength with a flying time of 4’07’’307, putting almost 4 seconds into the world record set by the British team in Rio five years ago (4’10’’236).

Two other teams raced faster than the previous world record but slower than the Germans: the British quartet (4’09’’022), chasing a third successive Olympic gold medal for their country in the women’s team pursuit, and Team USA (4’10’’118), led by an impressive Chloé Dygert.

The men’s team pursuit qualifying was also a fast and tight battle with Italy rapidly setting a new Olympic record: 3’45’’895. The Squadra Azzurra was notably powered by Filippo Ganna, holder of the world record for individual pursuit and 5th a few days ago in the Olympic Games individual time trial, after one-hour of effort on the road.

New Zealand (3’46’’079), Great Britain (3’47’’507) and Australia (3’48’’448) also beat the reference set by the British Olympic Champions in 2016 (3’50’’265) but only one team managed to collectively outpower the Italians: Denmark honoured their status as the reigning UCI World Champions, recording a best time of 3’45’’014.

Lasse Norman Hansen, Niklas Larsen, Frederik Madsen and Rasmus Pedersen are only half a second away from the world record they established in Berlin in 2020. And this is just the beginning of their Olympic quest!

The women’s team pursuit will continue through to the final on Tuesday, while the men will race the first round then wait for Wednesday to determine who claims the Olympic Games medals.

The second day of action in the Tokyo 2020 velodrome will also see the stars of the men’s team sprint battle for gold. Among them, Great Britain’s Jason Kenny is chasing a historic seventh Olympic title.

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 track cycling results: session one