Cycling: Ethan Mitchell makes mark at worlds with individual sprint bronze

By David Leggat

Ethan Mitchell became the first New Zealander to win an individual sprint medal.
Ethan Mitchell became the first New Zealander to win an individual sprint medal.

Ethan Mitchell has often been seen as the quiet achiever among New Zealand's stellar men's sprint team, sitting behind Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins when it came to individual sprint prowess.

But it was Mitchell who went deepest in the individual discipline at the world track cycling championships in Hong Kong early yesterday, picking up the spoils and a small piece of New Zealand cycling history.

Aucklander Mitchell won the bronze medal, beating Britain's Ryan Owens, to claim the first individual sprint medal by a New Zealand rider at the worlds. Dawkins and Webster were both eliminated in the quarter-finals.

These three spend so much of their time together, it was no surprise that Mitchell's initial reaction was collective, rather than singular.

Coach Anthony Peden has worked closely with the 26-year-old Mitchell over the past 18 months to develop his one-lap speed and his sprinting ability.

There was a small reward at the last World Cup event in Los Angeles, when Mitchell was second in qualifying. Signs were there.

Mitchell qualified fourth fastest in Kong Kong in a personal best time of 9.767 seconds - fellow Aucklander Webster was ninth and Southlander Dawkins 19th - and beat former multi-world champion Francois Pervis of France, before losing his semifinal to eventual champion Russian Denis Dmitriev.

"As for making history, our whole sprint squad is going really well and it could have been any one of us," said Mitchell. "I'm pretty new to the whole [individual] sprinting thing.

"I am fortunate to have mentors like Sam and Eddie, Anthony and the coaching staff to pave the way, really."

With the classy endurance rider Aaron Gate taking silver in the slimmed-down omnium - cycling's equivalent to the decathlon - New Zealand had five medals going into last night's final night of the event, a year after a Rio Olympics failure that cost Cycling New Zealand $500,000 in funding.

Gate won gold in the same event in 2013, before it was rejigged and slimmed down.

Timed racing events, such as the time trial, flying lap and individual pursuit, have gone, but a tempo bunch race is in and it's now raced over one day.

Gate was pipped by France's Ben Thomas in the final sprint of the 40km points race, which proved the difference between gold and silver.

The five medals match the efforts of Melbourne in 2012, Cali in 2014 and Paris a year later.

- NZ Herald

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