Nothstein, Americans shut out
ATHENS, Greece -- Marty Nothstein's hopes of becoming the sixth person to win individual cycling medals in three consecutive Olympics ended Wednesday after he failed to get past the opening round of the keirin competition.
Nothstein, the sprint silver medalist at Atlanta in 1996 and the sprint gold winner four years ago at Sydney, placed fourth in the repechage, or second-chance race, ending his medal hopes. He had to finish first or second to advance.
"The mind was good. The body was good,'' said Nothstein, who lives in Orefield, Pa. "I lacked a little bit of the power I'm used to racing with, but I put on my big gear and I was right there.''
That result, combined with Erin Mirabella's fourth-place showing in the points race, meant the United States would leave an Olympics without at least one track cycling medal for the first time since 1976, when it was blanked in Montreal. The United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Since 1984, American track cyclists had won 11 medals at the past five Olympiads. Mirabella was the only American to finish better than fourth at the Athens velodrome; no other member of the seven-rider U.S. track contingent placed higher than 10th.
Points races award scores based on placings in intermediate sprints held every 10 laps; Mirabella scored three points in the first sprint, three more in the fifth, one in the eighth and two in the ninth for a 9 points. She needed at least three more to advance.
"I had no idea I was in fourth place,'' Mirabella said. "I didn't think I had it anyway. I was blown.''
It was her best finish at a major international points race. She was 10th at Sydney in the points race, and never finished higher than sixth in any world championship. Russia's Olga Slyusareva, the four-time defending world champion in the event, won the points race gold medal.
Australia's Ryan Bayley won the men's Keirin final Wednesday, becoming the only cyclist to win two individual gold medals at the Athens Games.
Bayley, 22, held off Spain's Jose Escuredo in a sprint to the finish. Australia's Shane Kelly was awarded the bronze.
Germany's Rene Wolff crossed the line in third place, but was disqualified for impeding the path of France's Mickael Bourgain on the final straightaway. Bourgain crashed into the wall surrounding the banked track and did not finish; race officials ruled that Wolff moved outward "with the intention of forcing (Bourgain) up."
Fittingly, an Australian won the final track cycling event, capping a dominant performance throughout six days of racing at the Athens velodrome. Australia won nine medals -- five golds, two silvers and two bronzes -- in track cycling, more than double the total any other nation.
Bayley also won the sprint title.
Keirin races are eight-lap events, with riders jostling for position behind a motorbike for the first 5½ laps. The motorbike gradually increases its speed to about 30 mph, and when it ducks off the track competitors begin a mad 500-meter sprint for the finish line.
The top two finishers in the opening-round races earned automatic spots in the second round. In Nothstein's seven-man opening heat, he opted to begin his sprint from the back of the field and gradually worked his way to second place, but was edged at the finish line by Spain's Jose Escuredo.
That relegated Nothstein to the repechage. He again tried to work from the back of the pack, but only passed one of the five riders in his heat.
Australian duo Graeme Brown and Stuart O'Grady won the gold medal in the Madison race Wednesday, giving their country its eighth cycling medal of the Athens Games.
Australia finished with 22 points. Franco Marvulli and Bruno Risi, the 2003 world champions, won the silver for Switzerland with 15 points; Britain's Rob Hayles and Bradley Wiggins won bronze, scoring 12 points.
It was the second time the Madison was included in the Olympic program; Australia also won gold in its first offering four years ago in Sydney.
The race -- named for Madison Square Garden, where it was first held in the 1890s -- features a mass start, with one rider from each team racing at a given time while his teammate typically coasts slowly around the higher sections of the banked oval.
The inactive rider replaces the active one by "handslinging," where the racer grabs his teammate and pulls him ahead, thereby making him the active rider. Scoring is similar to the points race, with points awarded during intermediate sprints and bonus points offered for lapping the field.
Argentina's team of Juan Esteban Curuchet and Walter Perez, who won the Madison at this year's world championships, finished ninth Wednesday.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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