Tokyo Olympics: Team GB's Matt Walls wins omnium cycling gold

·5 min read

Great Britain's Matt Walls has won track cycling gold in the men's omnium at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 23-year-old rode smartly throughout the four-discipline event to win Team GB's first title in the velodrome of these Games - and Team GB's 16th gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics overall.

And two third place finishes took the team's overall medal tally to 51, with Liam Heath winning a hard-earned bronze in the men's K1 200m canoe sprint and Holly Bradshaw making British Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to win a pole vault medal.

Walls led the standings ahead of the Netherlands' Jan-Willem van Schip and France's Benjamin Thomas going into the fourth and final race of the event.

The European champion and a bronze medallist at the 2020 world championships won the opener on Thursday and closed down an initial four-man attack which included Denmark's Niklas Larsen and produced a surging finish to take 40 points in the scratch race.

He gained 36 points from the tempo race to put himself level on points with two other riders at the top of the field on 76 points.

Another strong performance saw him finishing second in the elimination race to move top of the leaderboard ahead of the final 100-lap points race.

He dictated the race from the outset, breaking away to gain a lap on the rest of the field early on, to win with a comfortable final margin of 24 points from Campbell Stewart of New Zealand who took the silver.

"I managed to get a good lead coming to the end. It's been a hard day. I came into that points race with a bit of a lead which was nice, it gave me a bit of breathing room," he told the BBC.

"Thank you to all my family and friends, I wouldn't be here without them. Especially my parents when I was younger growing up, they travelled around the country with me and there's no chance I'd be here without them."

The Oldham-born rider tested positive for COVID-19 in late March which disrupted his season with Bora-Hansgrohe road cycling team, but he returned to competitive action at the Tour de Suisse in June.

The format of the omnium has changed since 2016 when it included six separate events spaced over two days. It now comprises four races in one day.

Walls took the gold medal at the Izu Velodrome with 153 points, with Stewart finishing on 129 points and Italy's Elia Viviani on 124 to collect the bronze.

It was Team GB's second medal of the day after Heath earlier won the bronze medal in the men's K1 200m canoe sprint.

"A massive thanks to everybody that's watching at home. Not quite the gold, but I'm happy with my performance so I hope you guys can be happy too," Heath said.

It was the 36-year-old's fourth Olympic medal after successes at London 2012 and Rio four years later.

Bradshaw finished third in the women's pole vault, behind the USA's Katie Nageotte and the ROC's Anzhelika Sidorova, to claim Team GB's second bronze medal of the day.

The 29-year-old cleared 4.85m but could not make it over 4.90m - her personal best.

"This is what I've worked for my whole career. I've had so many ups and downs. It's something that I've just wanted, and wanted it so bad and it finally happened. It's not sunk in, I don't know what to say. I'm almost emotionless - I don't know what emotion I'm feeling.

"Relief, pure enjoyment, just excited and proud of myself for sticking with it. I knew I could get it one day and I can't express how grateful I am at getting an Olympic medal.

"I'm really proud of myself and all of my team for sticking with me."

And Team GB boxer Galal Yafai set up a gold medal fight. The Birmingham fighter guaranteed himself at least a silver medal after making it through to the final of the men's flyweight category.

"To be in an Olympic final is something I never thought I could do, and now I'm in it. It just goes to show, if you put in hard work, you reap the rewards," he said.

Walls' victory comes after Team GB finished runners-up twice earlier in the week to take silver in the women's team pursuit and men's team sprint.

Bradshaw's medal was just Team GB's second in athletics after Keely Hodgkinson's 800m silver on Tuesday.

It came after Dina Asher-Smith's successful return to the track after she pulled out of the 200m when failing to reach the 100m final last week and she revealed she had suffered a hamstring injury in June.

The 25-year-old helped the 4x100m relay team (including also Imani Lansiquot, Daryll Neita and Asha Philip) set a new British record of 41.55 seconds to win their heat and qualify for Friday's final.

The men's 4x100m relay team of CJ Ujah, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Richard Kilty and Zharnel Hughes finished second in their heat to reach the final.

The women's 4x400m squad of Emily Diamond, Zoey Clark, Laviai Nielsen and Nicole Yeargin reached the final after coming third in their heat, while Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr and Jake Heyward reached the 1,500m final.

Earlier, there was more drama at the velodrome when Britain's Katy Marchant's hopes in the women's keirin ended in cruel fashion as she was caught in a crash through no fault of her own in the quarter-finals.

Marchant was taken out when Dutch rider Lauren van Riessen appeared to clip a wheel in front and swung up the bank.

"I think that's just bike racing - wrong place, wrong time. I hope everyone's alright that was in the crash. I think I'm alright, just a bit battered and bruised," Marchant told the BBC afterwards.

"I'll be back tomorrow to start the sprint competition."

The Dutch rider received treatment at the track side before being taken away on a stretcher.

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