Track cyclist Sarah Hammer’s best chance at a gold medal evaporated three years ago when the International Olympic Committee dropped the individual pursuit, the event in which she has been world champion since 2008.
“It’s my pet event, what I love, and I thought it was a great Olympic event,’’ she said. “But once it was over and done with, it was over and done with. I moved on, and I would say I moved on pretty well.’’
She did. Hammer powered the U.S. to a silver medal in the team pursuit this past weekend and took home another silver medal in the six-race omnium that concluded Tuesday afternoon.
“Everything that I had been dreaming of and wanting for the last two years had been dedicated to this omnium event,’’ she said. “I am now the proud owner of two of these silver medals. It’s an amazing dream I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10 years old. Now I get to go home and share this with my family and friends.’’
Hammer came close to winning gold Tuesday, holding a two-point lead over Great Britain’s Laura Trott heading into the final race. In the omnium, riders receive points based on their order of finish in each race. You get one point for finishing first, two for second, three for third and so on, with the lowest cumulative score winning. That meant that, to win gold, Hammer had to finish within two places of Trott in the final 500-meter time trial.
Unfortunately, the 500 meters is probably Hammer’s weakest event in the omnium. “I’m not as naturally explosive from the start,’’ she said. “Once I get rolling, I’m good, but to get off the line and ready to go [is the issue]. But I’ve been in the gym training because I knew that was going to make the difference in the Olympic medal.’’
It did. Hammer rode a personal best 35.90, but that was only good enough for fourth place in the event. Trott, meanwhile, finished with the best time to win the gold medal.
Hammer was clearly disappointed at missing gold, but these Olympics went far better than in 2008, when she and three fellow U.S. track riders were left out to hang after they inadvertently caused an incident by wearing masks upon their arrival in Beijing -- as they had been instructed to do to protect against pollution. She went home without a medal from Beijing but has two medals as souvenirs this time.
Hammer, who turns 30 this month, said that she isn’t sure whether she will try to compete in Rio in 2016 but that she definitely will keep riding a bike. “The great thing is my whole family rides. My husband, my mom, my dad. Now I get to go back home and we all get to ride together.’’