Canada’s two bronze medals from the men’s and women’s team pursuit at the 2018 Commonwealth Games are the only medals the track squad leaves the Anna Meares velodrome in Brisbane with. The athletes representing Canada had some strong showings with Lauriane Genest’s fourth in the women’s sprint and Amelia Walsh’s fifth-place performance standing out.
Walsh wasn’t scheduled to compete in the final but after another rider was relegated she got her shot riding at the front before fading to fifth.
“I found out ten minutes before the final that I was back in the race. I had gone to the athlete lounge to cool down a bit, and Franck [Durivaux, head coach] came running in,” explained Walsh. “I believe this is my first Keirin final at the international level. It’s always a pleasure to represent the maple leaf, and it didn’t quite sink in until I walked in the velodrome the other day and the stands were full.”
Genest’s strong ride came after she was elevated to the team as an alternate but she proved her skill in her first international competition. Genest set a Commonwealth Games record in qualifying just four-tenths of a second off the world record. Genest came inches from qualifying for the final but was narrowly beaten in the semi-final. In the bronze medal final, she was once again bested by her more experienced opponent.
“Fourth was way more than I was expecting. I broke the [200 metre] record; it was a personal best, for sure,” said Genest. “Then in the semi-final, it went to three rides and that was the hardest time of the night. It cost me a lot, I gave everything I had in those rides and it was so close.”
More experienced members of Canada’s team had strong rides with Annie Foreman-Mackey earning seventh in the individual pursuit and Hugo Barrette seventh in the men’s Keirin. Allison Beveridge finishing seventh in the scratch race while Adam Jamieson finished 15th in the individual pursuit. Michael Foley and Jay Lamoureux rode the men’s point’s race final with Foley not finishing and Lamoureux rolling across in 14th.
Former kilo junior world champion Stefan Ritter was 14th in the kilo time trial. “We’ve changed the gear I ride since Apeldoorn [world championships], and it’s faster off the start,” explained Ritter. “I think I pushed too hard in the second half and I really didn’t have anything on the last lap.”
While Canada’s performances did not yield a hefty medal haul, with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics a major target down the line the performances of the athletes was encouraging.
“Lauriane was a bit of a surprise, since we haven’t had a chance to see her race at this level before. We knew she was fast, but to break the Commonwealth record and then to advance all the way to the bronze medal final of the sprint is pretty amazing,” explained Canada’s cycling team manager Kris Westwood said. “You could tell by the end of the evening she was pretty exhausted, but she was still giving it her all. I think there is a lot of promise among our riders and we are not very far from being able to regularly land on the podium.”
The Canadian track team will go into the important process of qualifying riders for the 2020 Olympics later in 2018 with renewed motivation and two team pursuit squads that have shown a capability to compete against the best on the world stage.