Houvenaghel has to make do with silver
It wasn’t the golden World Championship moment Wendy Houvenaghel had longed for.
Despite putting in two world class rides in both qualifying and the final of the 3000m individual pursuit the Upperlands rider was beaten by American Sarah Hammer, who is now a three-time world champion in the event having previously won it in 2006 and 2007.
Another silver medal to go with the Olympics in Beijing and last years World Championships in Pruskow, Houvenaghel can now add the Ballerup Super Arena in Copenhagen to the list of ‘so nearly’ venues.
But she shouldn’t be disappointed.
The 26-year-old from California, nine years Houvenaghel’s junior, was the only woman to go under the magical time of 3:30 and she did it twice.
Hammer had “put the hammer” down in qualifying, laying down the gauntlet to the rest of the field with a time of 3:27.826.
Houvenaghel, riding in the penultimate heat, could never quite get on terms and was second throughout the kilometre splits recording a respectable time of 3:30.377.
It meant an anxious wait as defending champion, Alison Shanks of New Zealand, raced against the clock and with less than 1000m remaining the Kiwi was ahead.
However she slowed in the closing stages missing Houvenaghel’s time by 0.8 of a second.
Unfortunately the qualification had taken nothing out of Hammer’s legs and while Houvenaghel started slightly quicker by the 1000m mark she trailed by 0.32 of a second.
With every lap that passed so the gap grew by two to three tenths of a second and by 2000m Hammer led by 2.3 seconds.
She finished in a time of 3:28.601 with Houvenaghel almost four seconds behind in 3:32.496.
Cheered on from the stands by her family she still managed a broad smile at the medal ceremony and was philosophical about the result.
“I was very confident after the performance I delivered in the qualifying that I could back that up with another strong one in the final.
“I performed to the best of my ability but Sarah was just a little bit stronger on the day,” admitted Houvenaghel.
“She’s come away with the gold and I once again have consistently got the silver so I’m pleased with the performance but the outcome is really out of my control.”
With the individual pursuit no longer part of the Olympic schedule this may have been her last chance to win an individual gold.
As she explained: “Quite possibly. It will depend very much on the timetable of events at next year’s World Championships and my priority will be to ride the team pursuit fresh.
“So if the individual comes after the team event then, yes, I will enter it again but if it’s before then I wouldn’t take part I would imagine.
“All the stops will be pulled out to perfect the team pursuit ahead of London and I want to perfect my job within the team pursuit.”
Houvenaghel is already a two-time world champion in the team discipline, which is now on the Olympic programme, and she’ll be joined by Lizzie Armitstead and Joanna Rowsell today as they aim to defend their title.
“Training has gone really well and this is now obviously the priority with the Olympics coming up.
“I’m used to having the events on back-to-back days so that shouldn’t pose a problem.
“It’s something that I’ve trained for and I’m quite confident we can produce a world-class performance.
“We did it last year and against at the World Cup in Manchester when we set a new world record so our aim is of course to win and I’m very much looking forward to it.”