London, England – Even after the first few laps, it was apparent the British women's pursuit team was a step better than the United States.
Not that it was a surprise. Great Britain had set a world record a day ago in qualifying, and bettered its mark by nearly a second in the first round Saturday.
But the way in which Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell beat the U.S. for the gold medal was still a sight to see at the raucous Olympic Velodrome. They set the world record again and nearly caught the Americans with an authoritative performance.
The trio completed the 3,000-meter race in 3 minutes, 14.051 seconds, more than five seconds quicker than the U.S. The large margin of victory was partly due to the performance by the American squad of Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo, who rode it in 3:19.727.
That time was nearly three seconds slower than what the U.S. had clocked in the first round, where, riding with Jennie Reed instead of Tamayo, they narrowly beat Australia to reach the gold medal race.
But the British turned in one performance better than the rest, saving their best for last. In a race where teams line up on opposite sides of the track and chase each other, Great Britain gained an immediate advantage and held it.
The three kept the foot on the gas pedal and rode the final 1,000 meters quicker than they had the middle 1,000.
Even Paul McCartney, in the stands to watch, had to stand up and cheer.
"We didn't expect a world record in every round," Trott said.
The victory gave the host nation of these games its fourth track cycling gold medal, and competition at the Velodrome has been underway for only three days. On Friday, the British men's team set a world record in its final.
For the U.S., the silver medal was its best result in a women's track cycling event at the Olympic Games. No American woman had medaled in any of the events since Rebecca Twigg claimed an individual pursuit bronze in 1992.
Canada completed Saturday's podium after defeating Australia.
In other action on Day 3 of track cycling, the men's omnium got underway. Like women's team pursuit, the omnium is new to the Olympic program. It's a two- day, six-event competition -- like the decathlon of track cycling.
France's Bryan Coquard used three top-five finishes, including a victory in the elimination race, to jump into first place midway through.
Additionally, the first rounds of the men's sprint were conducted. Great Britain's Jason Kenny and France's Gregory Bauge, the top two favorites, moved into the quarterfinals. Also advancing to the quarters was American Jimmy Watkins.