McCulloch and Morton storm to team sprint silver
13 April 2017
TRACK CYCLING: The Australian cycling team glittered on the opening day of the 2017 UCI Track World Championships in Hong Kong.
Three-time world champion Kaarle McCulloch (NSW) and Rio Olympian Stephanie Morton (SA) powered to grab Australia’s first medal of the Championships with an emphatic silver in the women’s team sprint.
Morton was quick to dedicate her maiden world championship medal to long-time sprint coach Gary West who is unfortunately absent his first championships in over two decades as he battles Motor Neurone Disease.
“I know I speak for Kaarle and myself that we are really happy to get the silver medal tonight, but it would have been nice to have had coach Gary West here, and his support,” said Morton, 26.
“We all know the battle he is going through, and as much as we did this for ourselves, this is for you Gary.
In their debut as a team sprint combination at any level, the duo clocked the second fastest time in qualifying with 32.785secs. Just one hour later they returned to the track to post an Australian record of 32.570secs, eclipsing McCulloch and Anna Meares’ five year old mark (32.597).
In the final, the reigning world champion Russian pairing of Anastasia Voinova and Daria Shmeleva (32.520) was too good for the Australians (32.649) as they claimed their second straight gold in the event.
“We had been training really well back home in Adelaide so I just knew tonight I had to do my job, we managed to lift every time, we executed the plan we wanted to,” said Morton.
“It was all the little things we got right, our mindset going into each race, that is going to put us in really good stead heading into Tokyo.”
For McCulloch, the medal takes her world championships medal haul to six in the team sprint event including three rainbow jerseys (with Anna Meares).
“I was a little nervous to start off with, as I haven’t done any start work since Rio,” remarked McCulloch.
“It was actually something Simon Jones said to me this week, he said ‘You might not have done many starts lately, but you have done many starts during your career. I just remembered that and I absolutely nailed it.
“Plus, this (silver medal) is pretty special, particularly as I don’t think we were expecting to ride off for the rainbows tonight,” revealed McCulloch.
Listen to the athletes talk about their silver-medal winning performance, thanks to Cycling Australia.
In the men’s event, 2012 team sprint world champion Matthew Glaetzer (SA), plus Nathan Hart (ACT) and Jacob Schmid (VIC) formed the fourth new-look team combination for Australia on the opening day.
The trio posted the seventh best time in qualifying (44.136) before shaving almost half a second off the mark in the first round against France. However, they were edged by France in the first round and out of medal contention by one-tenth of a second. They finished sixth overall.
The reigning world champions Australia kick started its men's team pursuit title defense with a scorching near-world record ride in the afternoon’s qualifying session.
Coach Tim Decker’s opening line-up boasted no shortage of rainbow jerseys, with reigning world champions Sam Welsford (WA) and Alex Porter (SA), teaming with 2010 world champion Cameron Meyer (WA) and eighteen-year-old debutant Kelland O’Brien (VIC), a junior world champion in the event in 2015.
Pitted against fierce rivals Great Britain in the ninth and final heat - a rematch of both the 2016 Olympic Games and World Championships finals where the teams shared the spoils – the new look Australian quartet bolted from the gates and straight onto world record pace after the first kilometre.
The Australians were relentless over the second half, reeling in their British opponents inside the final few hundred metres, before sending a ripple through the team pits as they stormed to an intimidating time of 3mins 50.577secs.
The team’s time - just .312 outside of Great Britain’s world record set at Rio 2016 Games - made even more astounding considering they were forced to overtake their opponents with two laps to go.
In the evening’s first round ride against France, debutant Rohan Wight (SA) took his place in the line up for Meyer with immediate affect. The team's considered ride of 3mins 54.125secs was a personal best for former junior world champion, while importantly stamping the team's ticket to the gold medal ride.
The final will be a trans-Tasman affair New Zealand recording times of 3mins 53.422secs and 3mins 54.363secs on the day to progress to the final.
Earlier in the day, Australia’s women’s team pursuiters were the first to hit the Hong Kong track and the first to show off more than just a shiny new skinsuit.
2015 world champions Ashlee Ankudinoff (NSW) and Amy Cure (TAS), plus reigning individual pursuit world champion Rebecca Wiasak (ACT) and debutant Alexandra Manly (SA) proved their prowess as a new formation as they recorded the second fastest qualifying time in the women’s event.
The quartet covered the 16 laps of the Hong Kong Velodrome in a smooth and measured time of 4mins 18.659secs - the fastest of the day until reigning world champions the USA took bragging rights by less than a second (4:17.722) in the final heat.
The women’s pursuit competition continues on Thursday with Australia to face Canada in the first round, with the winner will face the either fastest qualifiers USA (4:17.722) or fourth-fastest Italy (4:19.838) for the gold and silver medals.
Follow the Cycling Australia Twitter account for live results and updates.