Britain takes pursuit gold, China wins women's team sprint

By DAVE SKRETTA - AP Sports Writer ,

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Great Britain's team competes to set a new world record in the Men's team pursuit first round at the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016.

Great Britain's team competes to set a new world record in the Men's team pursuit first round at the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (Photo: Pavel Golovkin)

Bradley Wiggins and Britain are Olympic champions once again.

This time in record-setting fashion.

The team pursuit squad of Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull beat Australia in record-setting time at the Rio Games on Friday night, winning the gold medal for the third straight time and making Wiggins the most decorated Olympian in British history.

It was the fifth gold for the former Tour de France champion and eighth medal overall, breaking a tie with retired track cyclist Chris Hoy for most by a British athlete. Wiggins has now won medals in every Olympics dating to the 2000 Sydney Games.

Britain stopped the clock in 3 minutes, 50.265 seconds to lower the mark it set in the semifinal round. That beat the Australian team of Alexander Edmondson, Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn and Sam Welsford, who finished in 3:51.008 to take silver.

Denmark easily beat New Zealand to earn bronze.

Earlier in the night, the Chinese pair of Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi won gold in the women's team sprint, beating the Russian team of Daria Shmeleva and Anastasia Voinova in the finals.

China broke its own world record in the semifinals, beating Spain with a time of 31.928 seconds, before knocking off the Russians to improve on the silver won at the London Games.

The German team of Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel, the reigning Olympic champions, beat the Australian pair of Anna Meares and Stephanie Morton to claim bronze.

After helping Britain win the team sprint Thursday, Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner squeaked past their opponents in the opening round of the individual sprint competition.

Kenny broke his own Olympic record in qualifying before edging Maximilian Levy of Germany in the first round, while Skinner led the whole way in beating Patrick Constable of Australia.

The competition continues through the semifinals Saturday.

That was merely undercard competition to the men's team pursuit finals, though.

Wiggins largely retired from road cycling after winning the time trial at the London Games, seemingly content not only with his career in professional cycling but also the Olympics. Yet there was a persistent itch to get back on the track, one that he couldn't help but scratch.

The world hour-record holder soon dedicated himself to winning more gold in the event that first made him a star. He formed his own road team so that he could pick and choose specific events for his training, and spent long hours in the velodrome as the team perfected its technique.

They were on point from the moment they began qualifying in Rio.

Britain easily set the fastest time in qualifying to earn a favorable draw in the semifinals, then routed New Zealand by more than 5 seconds — an eternity over 4,000 meters.

Australia made things interesting in the final, building a lead of 0.695 seconds by the midway mark. But the British team kept their four riders together long while Australia dropped one, and they managed to slowly trim into the lead before pulling ahead at the 3500-meter mark.

Then it was a matter of putting their heads down and powering through the finish.

Wiggins and his teammates were so spent by the effort they hardly raised a fist to celebrate, instead coasting around the velodrome to adoring cheers. Doull eventually grabbed a British flag and flew it high in the air, another victory in a sport his nation has come to dominate.

-AP

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