Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Kiwi track cycling star Ellesse Andrews maintains medal hopes with landslide victory


New Kiwi cycling star Ellesse Andrews stayed on a roll at the Tokyo velodrome, advancing to the Round of 16 in the women’s sprint. Video / Sky Sport

New Kiwi cycling star Ellesse Andrews stayed on a roll at the Tokyo velodrome, advancing to the Round of 16 in the women’s sprint.

Andrews backed up his silver medal at Keirin by breaking the Olympic record in sprint qualifying before winning two of his three head-to-head matches on Friday night.

After showing way too strong for Australia’s Kaarle McCulloch in the Round of 16, Andrews suffered her first loss in the Round of 16 against Ukraine’s Olena Starikova.

But faced with a must-see draft against Bao Shanju of China – a team sprint gold medalist earlier in the Games – Andrews showed her class to advance to Saturday’s 1/8 finals at the Izu velodrome, with TV commentator Gerald de Kock describing the effort as a display of “formidable power.”

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The 21-year-old now has the chance to reflect on her efforts and, more importantly, to rest after a busy schedule that saw Friday’s action follow four races in the Keirin.

“After a while you have to do what you have to do,” Andrews told Sky Sport. “Every race is to its maximum and you put your best foot forward on the track. That’s exactly what you need to do to progress in a competition like this.”

Despite his busy diary, there was no sign of an emotional or physical slump after the Kiwi’s superb run to take second place in Keirin’s final last night.

“This morning chatting with family and friends it was great to be able to share this experience,” said Andrews. “But I’m in my next competition now, so my race head is on.”

It was certainly necessary during the last outing of his evening when defeat would have sounded the death knell for the Andrews Games.

Ellesse Andrews broke the Olympic record in the women's sprint qualifying.  Photo / Photosport
Ellesse Andrews broke the Olympic record in the women’s sprint qualifying. Photo / Photosport

Instead, she displayed a level of poise that belied her lack of senior international experience, a quality that complemented the undeniable tactical acumen and speed she exhibited in the Keirin.

As she had attempted with mixed results against more experienced opponents in her previous two races, Andrews opted to yield the lead in her clash against Bao, supporting her power to overtake her foe on the final lap.

It was a strategy that worked well against McCulloch but was later called off by Starikova with the Ukrainian gaining some rematch after finishing fourth at Keirin.

But Andrews shed the disappointment and reverted to her favorite game plan to seal a place in the Round of 16, where she will face Canada’s Kelsey Mitchell at 6:33 p.m. (NZT).

Andrews’ status as a serious sprint contender was established in sprint qualifying when, needing only a top 24 time to advance to the next lap, her blistering speed was immediately displayed.

The Kiwi clocked a qualifying time of 10.563 seconds to briefly set a new Olympic mark, break the national record and secure her spot for the 1/32 round.

Andrews’ Olympic record was surpassed by the next 10 runners – led by Germany’s Lea Friedrich in 10.310s – but she had a lot more to come.

However, her compatriot Kirstie James was unable to join Andrews in the Round of 32 as the talented endurance rider struggled to qualify for the sprint to stop the clock at 11.116 seconds and finish 27th.

Ellesse Andrews' hopes for a second Olympic medal are still alive.  Photo / Getty Images
Ellesse Andrews’ hopes for a second Olympic medal are still alive. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand were also late in Madison’s first women’s Olympic race, as the untested combination of Jessie Hodges and Rushlee Buchanan finished 11th.

British pair Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny dominated the 120-lap race from start to finish, winning all but two of 12 sprints to accumulate 78 points.

The Kiwis could not factor in the sprints and were passed twice, recording a total of minus 40 points to finish ahead of only Germany (-40) and three teams that crashed in a chaotic race.

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