Emma Finucane went from being Great Britain’s next best sprinter, to its current one on Wednesday night, when she claimed a momentous first rainbow jersey.
At just 20 years old, the Welshwoman beat the eight-time world champion Lea Sophie Friedrich (Germany) convincingly in the women's sprint, winning 2-0 in a best of three matches.
Finucane’s victory came exactly 10 years after her compatriot, Becky James, took the same honour in the event. Since 2013, no other British woman had even medalled in the sprint, until this year’s World Championships.
“I can’t believe I’m world champion,” she told the media, including Cycling Weekly, inside the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. “I don’t think it’ll ever sink in, but I really wanted this. I worked really hard for this with my coach and with my team back in Manchester. It’s definitely super special.”
Finucane’s victory celebrations were muted as she rode to a halt around the track. When she finally stopped, she lay down on her back, and bathed in the applause of the crowd, before she was swarmed by a huddle of Team GB staff.
One of those stood over her was her coach, Kaarle McCulloch. As soon as the sprinter crossed the line, the Australian punched the air, burst into tears, and ran across the track centre to congratulate her.
“This is my last race with her,” Finucane said of her coach, who will now leave her role to return home to Australia. “To win it with her and for her is super special.
“I just needed to deliver myself on that last lap, as fast as I could, and basically give everything for that last 200m. I felt like I executed it really well.”
On Monday, the 20-year-old qualified first for the event, setting a new British record - and sea-level world record - of 10.234 seconds in the flying 200m. She then cruised through her heats, winning each of her match-ups 2-0.
Her determination, she said, stemmed in part from the frustration she felt after Sunday’s Keirin, in which she crashed out.
“I just used that as motivation today to give everything and show everyone that I can do it,” she said proudly. “Sprint over three days is really long, so you really have to focus for a long time. I definitely gave it to them. I just set my mindset. I knew I could do it and I just delivered.”
Finucane’s gold medal added to her previous silver in the team sprint, and comes in a year in which she has taken four national titles, a Nations Cup victory and two silver medals at the European Championships.
“I feel like this year has been pretty special for me, and I’ve broken through," she smiled. "But there’s still so much more to come for Paris, and I’m really excited to start that journey again."
Elsewhere on the final day of the track events at this year’s World Championships, two-time Olympic champion Katie Archibald finished fourth in the Omnium, which was won by the USA’s Jennifer Valente.
The Brit finished fourth in the Scratch race, the first of four events, before placing 13th and 14th in the Tempo and Elimination races. She then rode valiantly in the Points race, gaining two laps to climb to fourth overall.
“I’ve obviously made a series of mistakes,” the 29-year-old said afterwards. “Obviously I’m frustrated about how I went through the event as a whole, but it’s nicer to finish on a race where I feel like I’ve given it my all.”
Local hero Jack Carlin finished fifth in the Keirin, after a tense final in which Colombia’s Kevin Quintero dashed to his first world title.
In the men’s points race, New Zealand’s Aaron Gate earned his first rainbow jersey in a decade. Great Britain’s Will Perrett, who spent two months off the bike with glandulas fever earlier this year, finished fifth.
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