Australia swept the board on the opening day of cycling at the Commonwealth Games Tuesday, taking three gold medals and breaking three Games records. Anna Meares defended her 500m time trial title, winning the first gold on offer at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, before Scott Sunderland clinched the 1000m and Jack Bobridge made it three in the 4000m individual pursuit. It completes an astonishing comeback for Meares, who broke her neck in a cycling accident at the World Cup in January 2008 before fighting her way back to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It taught me a lot about life and who I am,” the three-time world champion said. “I’m now more patient and appreciate things more. I know I’m lucky to travel the world and ride a bike for a living.”
Meares shaved more than half a second off her own best to cross the line in 33.758-seconds, beating compatriot Kaarle McCulloch by almost a second with Becky James of Wales claiming bronze. “I have improved a lot since Melbourne four years ago,” Meares said. “The track is very nice to ride but it is a tough one. You have to generate your own speed. It’s smooth and grippy. Today it’s a lot warmer than in training after we asked for the air conditioning to be turned down and that has improved the track speed.” McCulloch, gracious in defeat, said: “Losing to Anna is no shame as she is a teammate of mine. A silver medal at the Commonwealth Games is pretty special.”
Sunderland, 22, picked up Australia’s second gold, recording a time of 1:01.411 in the men’s 1000m time-trial to edge out Malaysia’s Mohd Rizal Tisin, who finished in 1:02.768. New Zealand’s Edward Dawkins was third in 1.02:777. “Today it really felt like I got it together,” said Sunderland. “We had a plan and it came off. I knew I had the legs to win.” He gained victory inside the first 20 seconds, going through the 250m mark more than a second faster than Tisal, whose mediocre start let him down.
Bobridge completed the sweep, winning the men’s 4000m individual pursuit. The 21-year-old, from South Australia, set a time of 4:17.495, edging out Jesse Sergent of New Zealand, having taken more than a second and a half off Australian Brad McGee’s Games record in qualifying. Michael Hepburn of Australia won the bronze.
Bobridge led by almost 1.5-seconds at the halfway point before Sergent, 22, began to reel him in. But the Australian, who produced the world’s second-fastest 4000m ride of all time at this year’s national championships, was strong enough to hold off his rival and won by 0.338 seconds. Bobridge has been tipped to become the greatest rider of a generation, with cycling legend Lance Armstrong describing him as “the real deal”. He is the under-23 world time trial champion, was a member of the victorious team pursuit group that won the world title this year, and finished third in the individual pursuit at the same championships. Sergent was regarded as strong gold prospect, having beaten Bobridge at the world championships in Copenhagen earlier this year.