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Olympics 2004 – Track Team Sprint

August 21, 2004 – American track cyclists kicked off their Olympic campaign on the velodrome this evening and although their qualifying performances weren’t quite fast enough to advance them, impressive times were clocked across the board. The men’s team sprint trio of Adam Duvendeck (Santa Barbara, Calif.), Giddeon Massie (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Christian Stahl (Bethany, Conn.) clocked a personal best time of 45.742 seconds. Despite their new personal record, their time was only good enough for eleventh place, a few spots off a top-eight mark needed to advance to the first round.

Meanwhile, Erin Mirabella (Racine, Wis.) had her hands full in the qualifying round of the women’s 3km individual pursuit amongst a field that managed to surpass the existing world record six times before the evening was over. Mirabella rode a personal best time at sea level, stopping the clock at 3:36.992. Her mark placed her tenth in the qualifying round, eliminating her from further competition as the top eight advanced.

With an average age of 22, the young American sprint team was matched up against the hometown Greek squad in front of a loud sold-out crowd. “We were pumped up competing in front of such a big and noisy crowd, “explained Stahl. “It definitely helped us to go as fast as we can.”

Although the men didn’t advance, their Olympic experience and personal record was a sign of good things to come. “It was a pretty difficult process to just qualify for the games,” said Stahl. “In an Olympic year every country is riding the best that they possibly can. We’re happy to see the improvement throughout the year since we started working together in December.”

Massie echoed those sentiments. “We can’t complain. We did out best ride ever and we’re happy with that.”

In the gold medal round, Germany narrowly edged Japan after France beat Australia for the Bronze.

The highlight of the evening came during the final two match-ups in the qualifying round of the women’s pursuit. In the penultimate pairing between Katie Mactier (AUS) and defending Olympic Champion Leontiein Ziljaard-van Moorsel (NED) both riders surpassed the world record of 3:30.604 that was set this May by Sara Ulmer (NZL). Mactier clocked a 3:29.945 while Ziljaard-van Moorsel rode a 3:30.422. But Ulmer had the last laugh as she shattered both their times in the last qualifying ride posting a 3:26.400.

Mirabella’s medal potential lies with next week’s points race and competed in today’s pursuit with few expectations of advancing in a field as deep as the one that took to the track this evening. “I can only do the best that I can do, “she explained. “It’s obviously pretty competitive and there is so much more depth than there was in 2000. The points race is what I love and where my focus is and I know I wasn’t in contention for a medal today.”

In the ensuing first round, Ulmer rode a 3:27.444 and Mactier rode a 3:28.095 to advance to the gold medal ride while Ziljaard-van Moorsel clocked a 3:28.747 to advance to the bronze medal round against Katherine Bates (AUS).

Jennie Reed (Kirkland, Wash.) headlines the action on Sunday for the American contingent when she competes in the women’s sprint. Qualifying begins in the morning and continues with the 1/8 finals and repechages before giving way to the quarterfinals in the evening session. Reed, who skipped the 500m time trial to specifically focus on the sprint could give American cyclists their fourth medal of these games.

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