- 17 Sep 2000
- Sydney 2000
Bartko makes triumphant return to the saddle
The men's 400m individual pursuit was a true example of triumph in the face of adversity. Three of the leading riders had all been involved in serious accidents while training for Sydney.
Germany’s Robert Bartko had been knocked over by a car just a few months before the Games and had to have surgery on his shoulder. Meanwhile, his team-mate and great rival Jens Lehmann was hit by a car while on his cycle after arriving in Australia. Lehmann had been cycling through a park in Sydney when the collision happened, with the athlete coming off his bike and bouncing off the car's windscreen. He escaped with only minor injuries.
The third casualty was the Australian Bradley McGee. Just five days before Lehmann's accident, McGee had crashed while training and broken his collarbone. He had surgery to put a plate into his shoulder but still decided to try to compete in the Games, seeing it – rightly – as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win an Olympic medal in front of his home crowd. Despite his injury, and the pain he was suffering, he joined fellow favourites Lehmann and Bartko on the start-line.
Lehmann led at the halfway point of the race but Bartko, who had broken the Olympic record in his semi-final, was waiting for his moment. When it came, he seized the opportunity to dart in front of Lehmann, hit the front and open a slight but decisive gap. He took gold by more than a second.
McGee was in the bronze medal match and trailed for most of its duration. With the finishing line coming into sight, and urged on by the noisy Australian crowd, he defied the pain and discomfort of that collarbone to fly past Great Britain's Rob Hayles and take the bronze medal to complete a podium that could have been sponsored by Lazarus.