Nine years after retiring from the sport, Temecula resident Sarah Hammer today won her second silver medal of the London Olympics, finishing second in the two-day, six-event women’s omnium cycling event.
Hammer had a two-point lead over Laura Trott of Great Britain entering the final event at the Velodrome at London’s Olympic Park, the 500-meter time trial which Trott won in 35.110 seconds and Hammer finished fourth in 35.900, her personal best.
With the winner of each event receiving one point, the second-place rider two points and so on, Trott finished with 18 points and Hammer 19. The rider with the lowest total score is the winner.
“It came down to the last race, the last heat, going for the gold medal ride,” the 29-year-old Hammer said. “It’s everything I had been dreaming of, wanting the last two years. I’ve dedicated myself to this omnium event.
“I’m now the proud owner of two of these silver medals. It’s an amazing dream that I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10 years old, starting cycling in Temecula, Calif. Now I get to go home and share this with my friends and family. My husband is here, but I can’t wait to show everybody back at home.”
Hammer is married to Andy Sparks, who is also her coach.
Annette Edmonson of Australia won the bronze medal with 24 points.
Hammer retired from cycling in 2003 but was inspired to return to the sport after watching the 2004 Olympics on television.
Hammer and Trott both had 12 points entering the individual pursuit, today’s first event, but Trott was the leader because she won two events. Hammer won the individual pursuit, completing the 3,000 meters in three minutes, 29.554 seconds, nearly 31 mph. Trott was second in 3:30.547, putting Hammer ahead 13-14.
In the individual pursuit, two riders start at opposite sides of the track and race against the clock.
Individual pursuit is Hammer’s best event in the omnium. Hammer is a four-time world champion in the event and fifth in the 2008 Olympics, but the women’s individual pursuit was not included in the 2012 program.
Hammer added a point to her lead over by finishing second in the 10-kilometer scratch race behind Edmonson while Trott was third. In a scratch
race, the winner is the first to cross the finish line.
USA Cycling High Performance Director for Endurance Programs Benjamin Sharp said he was “hoping for a little more cushion between Sarah and Laura”
entering the final event.
“In the scratch race, we got really close to a three- to four-point cushion and the points race, the last sprint there might have been another opportunity to put some space between us and Great Britain,” Sharp said.
“Looking at the five events before the 500 TT though you really couldn’t have planned for a better situation and to be going for a gold medal on your last ride with the lead, anything can happen at that point.”
Hammer was fifth in Monday’s opening event, the flying lap 250-meter time trial in 14.369 seconds, while Trott won in 14.057.
Hammer was also fifth in the 20-kilometer points race with 25 points, while Trott was 10th with 14 points.
Malgorzata Wojtyra of Poland won with 34 points. Riders score points for sprints that occur every 10 laps around the 250-meter track and for lapping the field.
The first day of the event ended with Trott overtaking Hammer on the back straightaway of the final lap to win an elimination race, a bunch race with an intermediate sprint every two laps with the last rider each time eliminated. Hammer held on to finish second.
Hammer, who graduated from Chaparral High School in 2000, was part of the four-member U.S. team that won the silver medal in the team pursuit on Saturday.