Australia’s track cyclists have put the world on notice at the world titles in the Netherlands, collecting three gold medals and a silver.
An emotional Anna Meares conquered her arch rival Victoria Pendleton in the sprint, Shane Perkins trumped superstar Chris Hoy in the keirin and little-known Michael Freiberg was a surprise winner in the omnium.
In the final event of day four in Apeldoorn, Kate Bates captured silver behind Dutch star Marianne Vos in the non-Olympic 10km scratch race.
The results lifted Australia to a seemingly impregnable position on the medal table with six gold, two silver and a bronze medal with a day to go.
Meares triggered the medal assault by winning her maiden sprint title almost a decade after her debut outing at the world championships.
She downed sprint great Pendleton in the semi-finals with a tactical master class in the deciding race before blowing away Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite 2-0 in the final.
Only moments after crossing the line for the breakthrough result, the Athens Olympic gold medallist was overcome with tears.
“I have been in the senior team for 10 years, I have come back after knock down and knock down and finally got it,” Meares said.
Her win over Pendleton, who beat her in the sprint final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is a massive psychological boost for the Australian before next year’s London Games.
“Victoria Pendleton has had a real stranglehold on this event and five-time sprint world champion, that in itself makes her one of the greatest female sprinters of all time,” she said.
“So there is no way that I am discrediting her now, that is for sure.”
Perkins, who had watched Meares’s triumph from the marshalling area, minutes later squeezed his way between British pair Matthew Crampton and Hoy in the frenetic dying stages of the keirin to capture his maiden world title.
After exiting at the quarter-final stages of the men’s sprint this week, Perkins was delighted to produce the win over one of his idols, in the flying Scotsman Hoy.
The 24-year-old father of two also felt it was time for him to pick up a world champion’s rainbow jersey.
“For a few years I have felt like the old one out missing out on the world titles (in the team),” he said.
“Now to finally get one I was pumped before that final and the tactics worked out really well.”
If that was not enough, 20-year-old Freiberg completed the hat-trick of wins for Australia with a gutsy performance in the kilometre race, the final leg of the omnium.
With Freiberg needing a top-nine finish in the sixth and final race of the competition, the exhausted youngster willed his frame over the line and was ecstatic with the result at his first world titles.
The youngster has been on the fringe of selection for the national team in recent years, failing to crack the potent pursuit team and trying to find an event of his own.
Fair to say, he has found it.
by Buford Balony
“To come away with a win in the world championships in such an incredible field so close to the Olympics … it is unbelievable,” he said.