By Ian Ransom
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – Since the retirement of Anna Meares after the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Australia has longed for a successor to the hard-bitten coalminer’s daughter who extracted gold, silver and bronze from four Olympic velodromes.
At the Commonwealth Games on Thursday, Stephanie Morton showed the wait may be over as she defended her sprint title at the Brisbane venue named after the Australian great.
At Glasgow, Morton upset her mentor Meares for her first Commonwealth Games title.
On Friday, four years later, 34-year-old Meares hung the gold around Morton’s neck after she obliterated New Zealand’s Natasha Hansen in the final to win the nation’s 100th cycling title at Commonwealth Games.
Hansen attempted mind games from behind in both sprints, thrusting and parrying to try to knock the Adelaide native off her perch.
But criminology student Morton, who wants to be a police officer after winding down her cycling, was impenetrable. She roared home in the second sprint to win by a yawning 1.286 seconds.
“Tonight was all adrenaline. The crowd was so loud, it was amazing,” said the 27-year-old, who claimed the team sprint gold on Thursday’s opening night.
“I have already done what I came to achieve so the rest is a bonus.
“It took me by complete surprise when I beat Anna Meares in Glasgow — and now to be in the Anna Meares Velodrome is very special.”
In the thumping arena, sprint world champion Matthew Glaetzer lifted the roof at the end of the night by defending his keirin title, capturing the host nation’s fifth gold of the Games.
The 25-year-old South Australian held off Welshman Lewis Oliva in a furious bunched sprint, with Edward Dawkins taking bronze, a day after winning the team sprint gold for New Zealand.
Home fans shook the rafters throughout a steamy night at the venue, but pockets of Scottish fans also went berserk as the Archibald siblings pedaled off with a medal each.
Triple world champion Katie Archibald, who claimed the team pursuit gold at Rio, grabbed the evening’s first gold by holding off Australian veteran Rebecca Wiasak in the individual event.
Archibald had earlier set a Games record of 3:24.119 in the preliminaries.
“The crowd was going mental. That can only be bad news, really, as I’d rather be chased than chase,” said Archibald, the points bronze medalist at Glasgow.
“It feels good to have the two titles – Olympics and Commonwealth. It means a lot to me.”
Her older brother John added to the family joy later by taking silver in the 4km pursuit, with England’s Charlie Tanfield winning the gold in 4:15.952.
(Editing by Christian Radnedge)