MICHAEL MORKOV ENDS PRO CYCLING CAREER WITH OLYMPIC GOLD
Denmark’s Michael Morkov said he belted out the national anthem as loud as he could after winning madison gold on Saturday in what he admitted could be the last race of his career. Morkov and Lasse Norman Hansen kept their cool to win a crash-filled race in Shizuoka, giving Morkov his first Olympic gold medal, to add to his silver from the team pursuit in Beijing in 2008.
The 36-year-old left nobody in any doubt about his victory by giving a passionate rendition of the Danish national anthem at the Izu Velodrome, where Britain claimed silver and France bronze.
“Maybe this was the last victory of my whole career so I wanted to sing as loud as I could,” said Morkov, who won the madison with Hansen at the world championships last year.
Hansen and Morkov also won silver in the men’s team pursuit on Wednesday, losing out to Italy in the final, but went one better with a dominant performance, despite numerous collisions happening around them.
It also means Hansen is only the fourth Dane to win five Olympic medals and the first to win multiple golds on the track.
“I’m hurting all over the place but it’s such a nice feeling,” said Hansen.
“It feels great to be one of those with the most Olympic medals in the history of Denmark.”
The madison, named after Madison Square Garden in New York where it first became popular, has been reintroduced to the men’s Olympic program for the first time since 2008 and added for the first time ever in the women’s.
Denmark’s men finished sixth in Beijing and Morkov said he has been waiting ever since for another try.
“When madison came back again I immediately thought to myself, this is what I want, this is what I’m going after,” said Morkov.
“My team manager let me have the ambition and now I’m standing here with the gold medal.”
Chaotic and unpredictable
The madison is a notoriously chaotic and unpredictable event, with teams of two riders scoring points in sprints that occur every 10 laps.
Teammates are allowed to ‘sling’ each other in and out of the race, perhaps for rest or to put the faster rider in position for a sprint. Hansen’s last gold medal came in the omnium at London 2012.
“It was a great achievement to win gold in London but I was very young, I didn’t understand it fully at the time. Now I appreciate it more,” he said.
In the men’s keirin, Japan’s hopes of a first gold medal in the sport it invented were kept alive, as Yudai Nitta and Yuta Wakimoto both reached the quarter-finals.
With local fans allowed to fill the velodrome to 50 percent capacity, Nitta and Wakimoto were given a roar of support as they each won their heats.
“I was waiting for this day,” said Japan’s French keirin coach Benoit Vetu.
“To hear the people screaming. It is so good to hear the Japanese people enjoying the show because they have waited a long time.”
Emma Hinze remains on track to become the second German woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the sprint as she made it through to the semi-finals. Hinze is the reigning world champion and bidding to retain the gold won in Rio by Germany’s Kristina Vogel, who was forced to retire in 2018 after a horrendous crash in practice left her paralyzed.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini