Matt Glaetzer admits he may have had his final Commonwealth Games race – but believes it couldn’t have ended with a more glorious or unexpected gold.
Australia’s top track sprinter won his record-equalling fifth title at the Games in Monday’s 1km time trial – and had to do it the hard way.
Less than 48 hours after his terrible crash at the London Olympic velodrome which left him needing his elbow cut open to remove splinters, the Adelaide flyer was faced with the enormous disadvantage of having to ride a bike with different handlebars because of safety reasons.
Even he felt he couldn’t win while having to employ a less aerodynamic position with sprint handlebars instead of pursuit aero-bars, yet produced one of his great rides to successfully defend his four-lap title.
Last to go, Glaetzer clocked 59.505 seconds, with Australian silver medallist Tom Cornish left with head in hands after the three-time Australian champion had earlier clocked a potential winning time of 1:00.036.
Matt Richardson, Australia’s sprint gold medallist, was fourth.
“It’s going to be a very big stretch to make another Commonwealth Games, so that was more than likely my last Games ride – and to take away a gold for Australia is special,” said Glaetzer, after matching Anna Meares’ record Australian cycling tally of five Commonwealth golds.
“It’s becoming a habit for me at the Commonwealth Games, having to overcome adversity. It is really special.
“I’d rather not have the lows to bounce back from, but it’s testament to the challenges we all face that there’s always a new day and we can always try again,” added the man who’s overcome thyroid cancer and serious injuries to keep soldiering on the last two years.
Glaetzer had been cruelly denied a medal in the sprint on Sunday after being relegated for unfair riding following victory in the bronze-medal race.
He revealed all three Australians had only been told four days before flying out to the Games they’d need to use sprint handlebars because of fears their power output might snap the aero-bar.
At last year’s Tokyo Olympics, AusCycling had to apologise for a catastrophic equipment failure when Alex Porter ended up with facial injuries after crashing head-first into the track in team pursuit qualifying after the handlebar snapped.
The governing body had said in a statement earlier on Monday their riders would have to use drop handlebars which would result in “marginally slower times” but were a safety necessity.
Yet Glaetzer made light of it.
“It cost us a second out there – I knew I had to ride a 59 to win it and that hasn’t been done on sprint bars by myself, so it was new territory and I’m just super happy,” he said.
“It was pretty last minute when we found out. We couldn’t control it. But we’d rather be safe, and not snap anything or lacerate our arm with something going wrong, so we took it in our stride.”
On the final day of the track program, Glaetzer’s was the eighth gold won by the Australians and their 13th in all – the same tally as New Zealand – as they maintained their record of topping the track medal table for an eighth consecutive Games.