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01 Aug 1984
Los Angeles 1984

Hegg strikes gold after swapping skis for wheels

Life was good for the young Steve Hegg after he was crowned the downhill ski champion of the United States in 1982. He was only a year out of the juniors and had a glistening career on the slopes of the FIS World Cup at his mercy.

Reading a book by his alpine skiing hero, Jean-Claude Killy, Hegg took the great Frenchman’s advice and took up cycling as a means of strengthening the thighs for the incredible stamina and power required for lightning fast descents of the piste.

Hegg’s incurable competitive bug bit hard and before long skiing’s loss was cycling’s gain and the man from California was all set on conquering the velodrome.

With the Eastern Bloc missing from the Olympic Games of Los Angeles in 1984, the Americans, Australia and West Germany were the dominant players.

There was an electric atmosphere at the Olympic Velodrome which was ratcheted up even further when Hegg recorded a jaw-dropping time in the qualifying rounds for the 4,000m individual pursuit which eclipsed his rivals by several seconds.

At the tender age of 20 Hegg cruised through to the final where he met the German Rolf Golz. The American surged clear with metronomic pacing and before the race was half over it seemed only a complete meltdown could lose him the race.

He managed to win by four and a half seconds to become the first American winner since the event’s inception at the Games in 1960.

He wasn’t happy with that though. He played a key part in the team pursuit quartet which was a heavy favourite for the gold medal against the Australians.

However the American team lost one of its riders almost at the start due to a loose toe strap. With the team effort key to success the Americans were practically doomed but they kept within distance to fight for the title only to fall just short.

Hegg never regained the heights of Los Angeles that inspirational summer, but did compete 12 years later in the road race and time trial but finished out of the placings.

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