Sir Bradley Wiggins led Great Britain’s quartet to track cycling team pursuit gold, taking his personal tally to eight Olympic medals, in a thrilling final against Australia on 12 August. Meanwhile China’s women took a first ever cycling gold in the team sprint.
Great Britain were trailing for most of the 4,000m race, but they stormed back to beat the Australians by almost a second and post a new world record time of 3 minutes 50.265 seconds. It was the second time in the day that the British quartet of Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Steven Burke had lowered the record. Victory meant Wiggins, 36, now has five golds, one silver and two bronzes, making him his country’s most decorated Olympian of all time, moving one clear of fellow cyclist Chris Hoy, who was commentating in the stands. Wiggins also became the first cyclist to win an Olympic medal in five different Olympic Games.
"I wanted to go out on top, and it was one of the best finals ever,” enthused Wiggins, who also paid tribute to the losing finalists. “Hats off to the Australians.” He also pledged that Rio would be his last Games, saying that he wanted to spend more time focusing on being a father and a husband. “I'm not doing Tokyo 2020. I'm happy and content with everything I've achieved.”
Wiggins won his first Olympic medal, a team pursuit bronze, at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. “I'd come away with a bronze medal there and I thought well that's it, if I have to go to the job centre on Monday morning and get a job I can always say I've got this Olympic bronze.”
But in fact it was just the start. Wiggins went on to become both Britain's first Tour de France winner to win more Olympic medals than any other Briton, combining a track and road racing career in a way few have been able to master. In 2014, when Wiggins won silver in the team pursuit at the Commonwealth Games many questioned whether gold in Rio was a step too far. But Wiggins was determined to prove the doubters wrong. “I gave up the road, gave up the big salary; I came in and was just a number again and had to start from the bottom again,” he said.
Chinese ‘warriors’ win historic gold
Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi claimed China's first ever Olympic track cycling gold medal when they won the women's team sprint title, beating Russia in the final. The Chinese broke the world record in qualifying for the final and were too strong for Russians Anastasia Voinova and Daria Shmeleva as they sped to gold.
It was a joyous moment for China, who four years earlier in London had been disqualified in the final. Gong and Zhong were also denied a world championship gold in March 2016 when they were demoted to silver because of a technicality in the final against Russia.
“This is a historic medal,” said Gong. “It’s the first time. We have worked so hard for this. We are like old warriors who have kept fighting. This medal is not just for the two of us, because there are many people behind us who have worked very hard.”
“We didn't want to think too much about winning or losing,” added Zhong. “We concentrated on making the best race possible. This is the first Chinese gold medal - we did it. Today we did not want to make any mistake. We stayed close together so we can make the last sprint as fast as possible.”