A disastrous lead-up cruelled Australia’s hopes defending their women’s team pursuit world title, but they insist Rio redemption is firmly on the cards.
Just 12 months ago the Australian outfit set the world alight when twice smashing the team pursuit world record en route to gold at the 2015 world championships in Paris.
Australia’s high hopes were dashed in London on Friday (Saturday AEDT) when they were crushed by a ruthless USA outfit who went on to take gold ahead of Canada.
But the quartet of Georgia Baker, Ashlee Ankudinoff, Rebecca Wiasak and Amy Cure bounced back in their last ride to catch Italy inside the final kilometre of their race to claim fifth spot.
The catch meant they didn’t get to set a time, but it showed everyone what Australia are capable of.
“We saved our best ride until last. Sometimes that’s the way it goes,” Ankudinoff said.
But the wheels started to wobble on the Australian title shot long before their sluggish qualifying ride on Thursday – a result that let them sneak into fourth spot and into the firing line against Team USA in the semi-finals.
In the final days of their preparation in Australia, key member Annette Edmondson slammed into a car while travelling at 55km/h – but without any serious injury she boarded the plane to London determined to compete.
“Being hit by a car is sure to bang you up physically and mentally,” Ankudinoff said.
“She’s done a great job to get herself 100 per cent for this and put 100 per cent in for the team. That’s why she’s such a great teammate
Meanwhile, 25-year-old Melissa Hoskins – who was part of the world record-breaking feats in Paris last year – remained at home in Australia as she recovers from pneumonia.
Officials remain confident she can return to full fitness in time for an assault on the Rio Games.
And with a full-strength team, they’re bullish about their chances of posting a world-record time and taking gold.
“A lot depends on the track and the surface (in Rio) but I reckon it will definitely be a world record required to win, no doubt,” team coach Gary Sutton said.
“I’ve no doubt (Australia can break the world record in Rio).”
Edmondson didn’t ride Australia’s final race as she prepares to defend her world title in the omnium, which starts on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
Sutton admitted she wasn’t 100 per cent, but was optimistic about her title defence.
“If you’re going to ask me, `Is Nettie 100 per cent’? I would say probably not at this stage. I mean she’s hit a car at 55km/h,” Sutton said.
“But she is one tough character so (on Saturday) she might turn things around.”
On a quiet day for Australia, Michael Hepburn missed the individual pursuit medal races while Sam Welsford finished eighth in the points race.
Saturday was looking more promising, with Matt Glaetzer well-placed to claim a medal in the men’s sprint, Glenn O’Shea sitting ninth at the midway point of the men’s omnium, and Anna Meares, Kaarle McCulloch and Steph Morton entering the women’s sprint qualifying.