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Aug 13, 2016 – Elis Ligtlee of the Netherlands upset the favorites to win women’s Olympic keirin gold in Rio on Saturday. The 22-year-old beat Britain’s Becky James into second with Australian track cycling legend Anna Meares coming third.
“This is my first Olympics so I came here and my dream was always to have the gold medal,” said Ligtlee. “When I started here I didn’t know what my chance was and now I’m standing here with the gold medal.”
London 2012 champion Kristina Vogel of Germany, who is also the world champion, finished last in the six rider final at the Olympic velodrome.
“I saw Becky at the finish line so I was thinking that I had silver, but then I saw the screen and there was a ‘one’ before my name — that was ahhhhh, yeah crazy,” added the new champion.
Ligtlee, who stands 1m85 tall, led from the front on the final lap. “That’s one of my strongest points in the keirin, I go from the front with two laps (to go) but you’re still with Anna Meares and Kristina Vogel — it was a hard race but it ends good,” said Ligtlee.
James, who fell into the arms of her Welsh rugby star boyfriend George North after the race, was last at the bell and although she made up a lot of ground, she had left it too late to reel in Ligtlee.
“To be honest it’s all a complete blur to me now,” said a delighted James, who had a cancer scare requiring an operation in 2014, before suffering potentially career-threatening injuries to her shoulder and knee. “It was weird because I was trying to be patient but I didn’t really know when to go because I didn’t want to go too hard, too soon and get stuck on the outside. But looking back now, I should’ve started earlier, maybe got on Elis’s
wheel. I can’t complain with a silver medal, I had some serious speed in that last half lap and it kind of paid off with this.”
Britain’s head coach Iain Dyer said James’s silver was the “most emotional medal of the week”. He told the BBC: “It just shows never give up on your dreams. She came back from life (career) threatening injuries.”
As for North, who will start the new English Premiership season with his Northampton saints team in three weeks, vowed to celebrate his girlfriend’s medal. “So proud of her. As a sportsman it is so tough to come back from injury and this is fabulous,” he told the BBC. “It’s been nerve wracking watching it. Celebrate? I’ll be training if (Northampton coach) Jim Mallinder is watching! No, we’ll have a few drinks!”
Meares, the record 11-time world champion, could do nothing against her younger foes while Vogel never appeared to be at the races. Ligtlee’s victory denied Britain a golden double just minutes after they had won the women’s team pursuit title in a world record time.
Women’s Keirin final
1. Elis Ligtlee (NED)
2. Becky James (GBR)
3. Anna Meares (AUS)
4.Anastasiia Voinova (RUS)
5. Liubov Basova (UKR)
6. Kristina Vogel (GER)