Australia has a long and proud tradition in Olympic cycling. In terms of medals won per events contested, cycling is easily one of the most successful Olympic sports for Australia.
Edgar “Dunc” Gray became Australia’s first cycling medallist in 1928. Gray finished third in the 1000 metres time trial in Amsterdam, and then won gold an Olympiad later in Los Angeles. In Helsinki 1952 Russell Mockridge won gold in the time trial and then joined with Lionel Cox to finish first in the tandem. Mockridge, who later died in a road racing accident, is still arguably Australia’s greatest all-round cyclist. Ian Browne and Tony Marchant repeated the win in the tandem in Melbourne 1956.
Australian cyclists won three silver medals in Munich 1972 before again claiming gold in Los Angeles 1984. Michael Turtur, Kevin Nichols, Dean Woods and Michael Grenda overcame the home support and superior racing bikes of the Americans to win the team pursuit in Los Angeles. Woods again made the podium four years later in Seoul placing second in the individual pursuit and winning bronze as a member of the team pursuit. Also in 1988, Martin Vinnicombe won silver in the 1000m time trial.
The first Australian to win an Olympic gold medal on the road was Kathy Watt in Barcelona 1992. Watt also won a silver medal in the individual pursuit making her the first Australian to win two individual cycling medals at the same Olympics. Australia’s next cycling gold medal came in the madison at Sydney 2000 when Brett Aitken and Scott McGrory combined for an emotion-charged victory.
Athens 2004 saw a “gold-rush” for Australia with a record six gold medals. Ryan Bayley became the first Australian to win two individual cycling gold medals and he did it at the same Olympics, winning both the men’s sprint and the keirin. Anna Meares won her first gold medal with a world record time in the 500m time trial and Sarah Carrigan emulated Kathy Watt’s win in the women’s road race. Stuart O’Grady and Graeme Brown won gold in the madison, and Brown won another gold medal in the team pursuit with Peter Dawson, Brett Lancaster, Luke Roberts, Stephen Wooldridge and Bradley McGee. McGee has now won the most Olympic cycling medals for Australia with one gold medal, one silver and three bronze medals.
Although Australia went into Beijing 2008 with high medal hopes, the Beijing track delivered a number of near misses and disappointments. Nonetheless, the heroic performance of Meares was one of the most inspiring performances in Australian Olympic history. Meares suffered a broken neck in a race crash just seven months before the Games but trained tenaciously to get back on the bike for Beijing. She completed one of the greatest comebacks in living memory to claim silver behind British cyclist Victoria Pendleton in the Sprint.
Four years on and with the home town crowd cheering Pendleton home, Meares pulled off an amazing victory to claim gold in the women’s sprint at the London 2012 Games having already won bronze in the team sprint with teammate Kaarle McCulloch. In doing so Meares became the first female cyclist from any country to win five Olympic track medals and the first to medal at three Games.
The Australian team pursuit quartet of Glenn O’Shea, Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn won Australia’s only silver on the track behind a British team that broke the world record in the final. Shane Perkins claimed bronze in the men’s sprint while Olympic debutant Annette Edmondson also finished with bronze in the omnium’s Games debut.
Sam Willoughby won Australia’s first BMX medal since the sport’s inception in 2008 after finishing second behind Beijing gold medallist Maris Strombergs of Latvia in the London final. Teammate Caroline Buchanan placed fifth in the final of the women’s event.
Six-time Olympian Stuart O’Grady rode a tactical men’s road race to finish sixth while Michael Rogers matched that result in the men’s time trial. On debut Shara Gillow finished the women’s time trial in 13th while also claiming the best result in the women’s road race coming in 38th.
Australia is yet to win an Olympic medal in the mountain bike event with Rebecca Henderson 25th and Daniel McConnell 21st in London.