On Thursday, track cyclist Lauriane Genest won Canada’s first cycling medal at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing third in the keirin.
Genest and Kelsey Mitchell both made the women’s Olympic keirin final, meaning there were automatically two Canadians in the top six. Genest positioned herself well and managed to cross the line just behind Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and Ellesse Andrews of New Zealand.
In the keirin race, riders follow the derny bike (in this case an ebike) for three laps. The ebike gradually picks up the pace from 25km/h to 45 km/h with each loop of the track. Once the derny peels off, the cyclists are left to battle it out in three final laps.
After winning both their qualifying keirin heats, Mitchell and Genest took on the women’s keirin quarterfinals. The sprinters, who compete together in the team sprint both moved on to the semifinals.
The top four in the quarterfinals proceeded on to the semifinals. Two favourites, Katy Marchant and Laurine van Riessen, went down in the first quarterfinal.
In the second heat, Lauriane Genest moved up from the back and finished fourth in a tight sprint, +0.094 s back from Dutch rider Shanne Braspennincx.
Finally, in the third and last heat, 27-year-old Kelsey Mitchell took her last lap to sprint ahead of her competition, crossing the line comfortably in first place.
The top three of six riders in the semifinal heats move on to the keirin finals. The first heat of the semifinal was hotly contested, with Mexico’s Daniela Gaxiola missing out on the final by 0.097 seconds in fourth place.
In the second heat Mitchell and Genest (second and third respectively) were beaten only by Shanne Braspennincx. While Genest stayed safely near the front, Mitchell decided to come up from the back and attack the group, a move that was challenged in the final stretch by Braspennincx as she crossed the line at almost 65 km/h. Both Canadians moved on to the final.
Canadians made up 1/3 of the gold medal final start list. Mitchell and Genest were challenged by Ukranians Lyubov Basova and Olena Starikova along with Ellesse Andrews of New Zealand and Braspennincx.
Once the derny pulled off Mitchell was the first to attack, moving forward confidently to the front of the pack. Braspennincx and Andrews moved forward, slightly boxing in Mitchell. While the move blocked Mitchell from a podium position, Genest was able to come up behind on their wheels and grab the bronze medal for Canada.
Genest’s bronze is Canada’s first medal at the track competition, after a close fourth place for the women’s pursuit squad.