Ashlee Ankudinoff takes double gold as Australia dominate day one of 2019 Oceania Track Championships

Australia emerged on top of the opening day of competition at the 2019 Oceania Track Championships at the Adelaide Super-Drome, winning eight of 10 gold medals on offer.

The domination of New Zealand in the men’s and Australia in the women’s continued in the team sprint. While in the team pursuit it was Commonwealth Games gold medallists Australia who took the women’s title and New Zealand snared the men’s in a hotly contested competition.

The points races saw Ashlee Ankudinoff the star of day one winning a second gold with Kelland O’Brien taking the men’s improving on his silver medal from last year.

In the under 19 category it was Australia who was too strong as their rising stars swept the top step of the podium winning both the men’s and women’s team sprint and pursuits.

Competition continues Thursday with 12 titles on offer as individual pursuit and time trials will light up the boards as well as bunch racing competition including the men’s omnium, under 19 men’s Madison and scratch races.

Team Sprint

Edward Dawkins, Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell (New Zealand) combined to claim their sixth Oceania team sprint title in a row. The trio who hold three world titles and Olympic silver in the event stopped the clock in 43.627secs edging out the fast finishing Australian team of Nathan Hart, Jacob Schmid and Patrick Constable in 43.804secs.

It was a nail-biting finish in the race for bronze with Sam Dakin, Callum Saunders and Jackson Ogle (New Zealand) coming from behind to take bronze by one hundredth of a second.

“It feels as good as the first one. They are always a hard fought battle against Australia they always put everything out there,” said Dawkins.

“It is early in the season so hard to tell how each team is going but we found out this evening we are very very close, which is awesome we always have that great rivalry and sets up a good platform for Oceania athletes progressing through to World Cups and World Championships.

“It was real good, Dawkins explained of how the experience trio executed their race. “It is the first team sprint since Commonwealth Games so it is hard to gauge how we are going to go. This track is a difficult track to master if you are not here all the time.

“The last time we were here was in 2014 and took a wee bit of time to get used to it. Turning in to the corners instead of being thrown in and the line is a little bit different so took us a little bit of time to get used to that but after that we sort of had a bit of a better run that second one and came away with a better time.

“Tomorrow is a day off for the sprint guys, the development guys and the Hub guys from the Subway Regional Performance Hub are doing the kilo tomorrow and then we have sprint and keirin.”

Australia claimed their sixth team sprint crown in a row with Stephanie Morton and Kaarle McCulloch winning their fifth, in what was their first team sprint since winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in April. McCulloch got the pair off to a strong start before Morton took over storming home in front of a vocal local crowd in 32.810secs. A young New Zealand pairing of Emma Cumming and Olivia Podmore took silver in 33.569secs with Holly Takos and Caitlin Ward (Australia-34.893) completing the podium.

“It feels really good. I am really stoked with how Steph and I executed tonight it is the first team sprint we have done since Commonwealth Games so to do a 32.8 is sitting pretty good on this cold track tonight,” McCulloch said as she reflected on the result.

“This week is all about managing my physical and mental exertion because I have three races on three different continents over the next three weeks so tomorrow I really want to get the win in the 500 so I can sit nice in the points for the World Championships. Then in the sprint and keirin it is about getting out there and executing some tactics I have been working on.”

Team Pursuit

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ashlee Ankudinoff lead Australia to gold in the women’s team pursuit and along with Kristina Clonan, Macey Stewart and Georgia Baker in the fastest time ever set at an Oceania Championships of 4mins 22.052secs, a new Championship record. 2017 under 19 champions Ellesse Andrews, Nicole Shields and Emily Shearman joined with Jessie Hodges (New Zealand-4:27.775) to collect silver. The battle for bronze went to Josie Talbot, Maeve Plouffe, Sam De Riter, Breanna Hargrave and Alex Martin-Wallace (Australia).

“It was good. Didn’t know it was the fastest at an Oceania Championships so that is pretty cool,” said Ankudinoff.
“We have had two newbies in Kristina and Macey come in to the squad and I think they stepped up tremendously. I don’t think they have ridden that quick before so we couldn’t be happier to start our season off with a gold medal.”

New Zealand returned to the top step of the podium in the men’s team pursuit for the first time in three years with Tom Sexton, Sam Dobbs, Harry Waine and Aaron Wyllie posting a time of 4mins 7.169secs, more than half a second faster than Australia’s Ben Harvey, Jensen Plowright, Cooper Sayers and Zack Gilmore. It was two Australian teams on the podium with Blake Quick, Matthew Rice, Josh Duffy, Luke Wight and Stephen Hall taking bronze.

In qualifying the Australian National Team had two false starts disqualifying them from the competition.

Points Race

Now three time champion Ashlee Ankudinoff claimed a second medal of the day bringing her number of Oceania titles to 14. With less than an hour between her gold medal winning team pursuit ride Ankudinoff returned to the boards and quickly let her ambitions be known in the early sprints.

With speed and experience on her side Ankudinoff was able to navigate multiple attempts to unseat her at the top of the standings with Sam De Riter (Australia) and Jessie Hodges (New Zealand) among the most active. Taking the final sprint saw Georgia Baker take silver just one point behind Ankudinoff with Hodges completing the podium 10 points behind.

“I backed up pretty well obviously, I am walking away with a gold medal, so I couldn’t be happier,” Ankudinoff said of claiming her second gold within a matter of hours.

“I had good legs out there and I just wanted to continue the moment from the team pursuit. Georgia and I got first and second which isn’t bad after backing up from the TP.”

Kelland O’Brien put on an exciting display of bunch racing to take a dominant victory on 46 points, improving from his silver medal 12 months ago. After picking up points in the early sprint, O’Brien unleashed his pursuiting ability to quickly take a solo lap on the field at the half way point of the 120 lap race.

Having solidified his lead, the Australian was temporarily on the back foot when a split in the bunch caused two main groups to form with O’Brien caught in the second. A powerful turn of speed saw O’Brien catapult himself back in to the front group and return control of the race.

The battle for the final two steps of the podium played out in the final race with Alex Porter (Australia) on 30 and Aaron Wyllie (New Zealand) on 28.

“It feels really good I got second last year so to come in this year and test some tactics out pretty stoked to get the win,” a delighted O’Brien explained.

For O’Brien that is Oceania gold and silver as well as the Australian title within a year. “It is a race I have struggled with in the past so to get a few wins this year in the points I am pretty happy with that.

“I was leading the race on points and I got a little opportunity where I went off the front and though I am going to grab this opportunity with both hands. It turned out to bite me a little bit as I lost half a lap, so I just had to wait for an opportunity to get it back. Eventually got it back and then just tried to recover to the end,” he added on the how the race played out.

Under 19

In the team sprint the women’s title went to Australia’s Heather May and Eliza Bennett in 35.954secs, with Tia Slama riding in qualifying. Silver went to Olivia King and Tyla Green (New Zealand) and Karis Bonser and Shelby Johnson (Australia completed the podium).

Australia doubled up in the men’s team sprint with Carlos Carismo, John Trovas and Sam Gallagher collecting gold in 46.454secs ahead of New Zealand’s Sam Upton, Cameron Manley and Patrick Clancy, with the podium completed by John Rollison, Jack Opperman and Declan Key.

A hard fought battle saw Ashley Jones, Lauren Robards, Tahlia Dole, and Dharlia Haines win women’s team pursuit gold in 4mins 43.323secs, ahead of the New Zealand line up of Eva Parkinson, Helene Rikiti, Olivia King, Emily Paterson and Mya Anderson who raced qualifying. Bronze went to Laura Hodges, Tess Wallace, Ella Sibley and Katarina Chung-Orr of Australia.

Australia made it a sweep of the day one under 19 events with Bill Simpson, Graeme Frislee, Kael Thomas and Oliver Bleddyn taking the title by half a second over New Zealand’s Laurence Pithie, Reuben Webster, Griffyn Spencer and Conor Shearing. Rohan Haydon-Smith, Luke Britten, Angus Miller and Lewis Walker completed the podium for Australia.