14 August 2008 :Two more road cycling events were decided today; when the men’s and women’s individual time trials were won by Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Kristin Armstrong of the United States of America respectively. Cancellara was the fifth rider to win a medal in both the Individual Time Trial and the Individual Road Race at the same Olympic Games. Kristin’s Armstrong’s gold medal marked the record 900th gold medal for USA in the history of the Olympic Games.
The history of the Olympic Games has been illuminated by cycling’s characters and their exploits for more than a hundred years. Frenchman Paul Masson, who won three of the six events at the inaugural Olympic Games in 1896, turned professional thereafter and changed his name to Paul Nossam – Masson spelled backwards – while Marcus Hurley, who won four of the seven events in 1904, later became an all-American basketball player for Colombia University.
In 1956, the 23-year-old Italian Ercole Baldini won the road race by a full mile, but for some reason his national anthem was not played at the medal ceremony. He was just about to leave the podium when a lone voice in the Melbourne crowd began to sing L’Inno di Mameli and he was soon joined by all the Italians around him. The identity of the singer remained unknown until 1997 when Gualberto Gennai, an Australian-born Italian, was introduced to Baldini by a Sydney radio station.
The incredible sight of four brothers teaming up was one of the highlights of the 1968 Olympic Games. Erik, Gösta, Sture and Tomas Pettersson won silver for Sweden in the team time trial in Mexico City – three of them subsequently changed their last names to that of their home village, Fåglum.
Meanwhile, 1992 time trial champion José Manuel Moreno prayed at his local church in Chiclana de la Frontera after breaking his collarbone the previous year. His Olympic gold medal and the jersey he wore are still on display in that church to this day.
Queen of Olympic cycling
There is no doubting the queen of Olympic cycling. Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel of the Netherlands had dominated women’s cycling in the 1990s but had to overcome anorexia and bulimia before landing her first Olympic gold medals, one on the track and two on the road in Sydney in 2000. Four years later in Athens at the age of 34, she crashed in the road race but came back three days later to win the time trial by 24.09 seconds, earning her fourth career gold medal, to add to a silver and a bronze.