August 25, 2004 – Twenty countries started this 100 lap or 25 km race that was also comprised of 10 sprints. This was probably the upset race of the entire Olympic competition when two Latin American riders took silver and bronze. Russian rider Olga Slyusareva took the gold. These events have traditionally been dominated either by Europe, and more recently by Australia, and while Mexico’s Belem Guerrero Mendez has been riding in the world championships and Pan Am Games, her best placing internationally has been 5th at the world championships in Ballerup, Denmark in 2002. Maria Luisa Calle Williams of Columbia’s best previous finish was seventh at the same championships.
Slyusareva placed in seven of the 10 sprints, and won three of them to receive a total of 20 points. Guerrero Mendez placed in six of the sprints and won one of them, while Calle Williams placed in four of the sprints, also winning one of them. All three riders were elated with the results, and Guerrero Mendez said afterward, “Silver and bronze for Latin America in cycling-it is unbelievable and great. It was a very difficult race. Normally I am not that fast, but on this track I rode a very intelligent and aggressive race. If you can combine those two elements, you have a chance for a good result.”
For Slyusareva, it was a race of a lifetime, she said, and announced, “today, it’s my mother’s birthday and my medal belongs to her.”