Sprint cyclist Sam Webster earned his second gold medal of the Commonwealth Games with a superlative display of power and tactical nous at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome today.
The Aucklander won the individual sprint gold medal, beating the Olympic champion Jason Kenny to do it, and New Zealand satisfaction was complete when his team-mate, Eddie Dawkins, claimed the bronze.
Webster, a member of the gold medal-winning New Zealand sprint team on the first day, showed no ill-effects of the gruelling racing schedule when he lined up for his individual sprint quarter-final against Malaysian Mohd Awang, beating him in consecutive races.
There were two other New Zealanders in the quarter-finals. Dawkins beat Englishman Matthew Crampton 2-0, but Matthew Archibald found Australian Peter Lewis too slick and lost 2-0.
In the semi-finals, Webster was drawn against the highly rated Dawkins, and outpaced him for a 2-0 victory. His speed as he swept around the last lap was undeniable and he looked in a class of his own.
And so it proved. In the best-of-three final, Olympic champion Kenny of England could make no impression in the first race and Webster, who won a bronze medal in this event in Delhi in 2010, was simply too good. Kenny fought back in the second race and earned victory by the width of a tyre. In the deciding third race, Webster timed his sprint to perfection to secure the gold.
There is a high standard at the top end of Commonwealth Games cycling and for the New Zealand sprinters to be so outstanding in such company is an indication of their class.
No-one has been as impressive as Webster, who turned 23 last week. He hinted at what was to come when he won three titles at the 2009 junior world championships. Since then, as a member of the New Zealand senior sprint squad, he has won world championships bronze, silver and, this year in Colombia, gold.
Dawkins was only marginally less imposing in inflicting successive defeats on Peter Lewis to sew up the sprint bronze medal.
Another New Zealander, Marc Ryan continued New Zealand’s fine tradition in individual pursuiting when he beat Welshman Owain Doull to grab the bronze medal – the track cycling squad’s fifth medal of the games.
Earlier Jaime Nielsen was edged out of a chance of medals, finishing fifth in the women’s 3000m individual pursuit. Nielsen, who lost a crucial six weeks of training with injury, set a new personal best of 3:34.342 which was 0.8sec outside a place in the medal race.