By Martyn Herman
IZU, Japan (Reuters) – Canadian rider Kelsey Mitchell claimed the women’s Olympic sprint gold medal, defeating Ukrainian Olena Starikova in the final at the Izu Velodrome on Sunday.
After edging out Germany’s reigning world champion Emma Hinze in the semi-finals, Mitchell timed her late attacking moves to perfection as she beat Starikova 2-0 in the best-of-three showdown.
Victory marked a remarkable rise to the summit for former college soccer player Mitchell, who took up track cycling only four years ago when she attended a national tryout.
She has since blitzed the field to claim the 2019 Pan American sprint title and also set the world record for the 200m time trial.
But notching up an Olympic gold represents her biggest achievement on the international stage. Mitchell, 27, becomes only the second Canadian Olympic women’s sprint champion after Lori-Ann Muenzer took the title in 2004.
In a third-place shootout, Hong Kong’s Lee Wai-sze overpowered Hinze in the opening two races of the series to take the bronze medal.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Writing by Hardik Vyas; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)