IZU, Japan (AP) — Italy broke its own world record in beating Denmark to win the gold medal in men's team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, rallying over the final half of the race to top the world's most dominant team over the past year.
The squad of Simone Consonni, Filippo Ganna, Francesco Lamon and Jonathan Milan overcame a nearly half-second deficit over the final five laps of the 16-lap race.
They stopped the clock in 3:42.032 to edge the world champion Danes, who were just behind in 3:42.203, in a dramatic final at the Izu Velodrome.
Australia, the silver medalist in Rio, took the bronze. The Aussies were in a tight race with New Zealand before a touch of wheels sent one of the Kiwi riders to the ground and effectively eliminated them from contention.
Canada finished fifth after defeating Germany in a placement race.
The men's team pursuit has been engulfed in controversy ever since the Danes stepped on the track for qualifying.
After setting an Olympic record with their ride, the British joined several other teams in lodging a protest over kinesiology tape that Denmark wore on their shins and aerodynamic vests under their jerseys. The tape in theory would disrupt air flow and give them an advantage while the Brits claimed the vest was not publicly available when they needed to be.
Denmark, which said it had gotten permission to use the tape, did not wear it for the rest of the rounds.
But their spot in the final was still put in jeopardy when the Danes faced three-time defending champion Britain in their heat. Denmark was so far ahead just after the halfway point that its leading rider, Frederik Madsen, collided with the trailing British rider, Charlie Tanfield, sending both to the ground and nearly touching off a fight.
Even though Madsen was at fault, officials declared that Denmark had caught Britain and effectively won the race.
“I was just frustrated at the situation,” Madsen said, “not at him, because he was doing his job and I was doing my job.”
The team of Madsen, Lasse Norman Hansen, Niklas Larsen and Rasmus Pedersen trailed the first half of their final against Italy before pulling ahead, eventually building a half-second lead with 1,250 meters left in the 4,000-meter race.
But with Ganna pulling hard at the front, the Italians closed a deficit of 55 thousandths of a second on the last lap to win the first gold medal for their country in the men's team pursuit since the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The start of the women's keirin also carried with it a hint of controversy.
Earlier in the program, the duo of Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi wore pin badges of Communist China's founding leader, Mao Zedong, after winning the team sprint gold medal. The IOC said Tuesday it was “looking into the matter” because the pins could be viewed as a breach of Olympic rules that prohibit political statements on the podium.
Bao and Zhong were back in action for the keirin, a discipline where riders followed a motorized bike called a derny as it slowly picks up speed, then they sprint for the finish line when the pacer ducks off the track.
Zhong was third in her heat, but advanced to Thursday's quarterfinals when Britain's Katy Marchant was relegated. Bao was fourth in her heat and was eliminated when she finished last in her repechage.
Marchant survived her repechage. So did Germany's Emma Hinze, the reigning world champion.
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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press