Katie Archibald last night completed her high-velocity rise from fringes to front and centre as the 22-year-old followed swiftly in the wake of fellow Scot Callum Skinner in claiming a track cycling gold at these Olympic Games.
After breaking the world record in their qualifying round, she and her Great Britain team pursuit squad – Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell-Shand – delivered a relentless push worthy of the final to see off the challenge of the United States with a world record time of 4min 10.236sec .
Barely three years ago, Archibald was stuck at home in Milgavnie in third gear with a fork in her road. She was working in the family company touting the benefit of beds to insomniacs and smooth sleepers alike, a promising cyclist certainly but her talent not quite awake. She could have gone to university. Or taken the travails lying down. Instead, she arose and went full-time into sport and it propelled her on a trajectory which has yet to cease.
Within quick time, she landed gold at the 2013 European Championships, and within a year, she had risen to become the first female Scot to become a world champion with more medals swiftly following suit. But now the ultimate prize, in tandem with Trott, who becomes the first British woman ever to win three Olympic golds.
“We were convinced it was going to go down to the wire,” Archibald said. “America had come out harder than us. In all the previous rides, we’ve not been up to the last kilometre. That means they’ve been having a tail on us. Trying to close down that gap. I had a sneaky look at the end to see if we were there. When you get that, you have that chomping on the bit sensation. We felt like superheroes.”
Archibald’s participation in these Games was put in doubt when she crashed her motorbike earlier this year and ended up with a broken elbow and a knee injury which disrupted her build up. She incurred the wrath of the coaches but bounced back.
The British quartet made it three rides and three world records in claiming their stunning victory. Britain clocked a world record in qualifying and the semi-final, their second mark of 4:12.152 beating the previous best the USA had set moments earlier in their own semi-final.
The event has since been expanded to feature four riders over 4km since London 2012, and Britain stuck with the same quartet throughout, leaving Ciara Horne in reserve.
USA’s Sarah Hammer, Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert and Jennifer Valente made the early running, but Britain overtook them after 1625m and surged onwards to a phenomenal win.
Britain finished third just five months ago at the Track World Championships in London after a poor qualification ride, but responded magnificently to win a second straight Olympic title in the event.
Further success followed in the Rio velodromoe when Becky James surged from the back and attacked the finish line to take silver in the keirin behind Dutch rival Elis Ligtee with twice-champion Anna Meares of Australia securing bronze.
“I was at the back, and I kept thinking: When do I go? When do I go?” the Welshwoman said. “I had so much speed. I was so desperate for that medal. This is so special. I have 10 of my family here, my mum has never been on a long-haul flight before. It has been a tough two years and this is a medal we have all won together.”
James was also watched by her boyfriend, Wales rugby international George North.
Today promises to be another golden day for the Britain’s cycling team, with a classic Scotland v England clash in the final of the men’s individual sprint. Callum Skinner of Edinburgh will meet Jason Kenny of Bolton in the finale, three days after the pair teamed up with Phil Hindes to win gold in the men’s team pursuit final. Skinner beat Chao Xu of China 2-0 in the quarter-finals then defeated Matthew Glaetzer of Australia 2-0 to book his place in the final.
Kenny beat Patrick Constable of Australia 2-0 in the last eight then defeated Russia’s Denis Dmitriev 2-1 in the semi-finals.