Nothstein Carries Americans’ Hopes
STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) _ Nothing could slow down sprint cyclist Marty Nothstein on Saturday.
Not Canada’s Curt Harnett, who won the bronze at Barcelona.
Not Australia’s Darryn Hill, the reigning world champion.
And not even the enormous weight of trying to salvage some American pride in the wake of the U.S. team’s otherwise dismal showing at the Olympics.
Nothstein, of Trexlertown, Pa., assured the dejected U.S. team of just its second cycling medal at Atlanta with a spectacular sweep of Hill and Harnett in the men’s sprints competition.
He’ll face defending world and Olympic champion Jens Fielder of Germany for the gold on Sunday, a prospect that didn’t faze Nothstein one bit.
``He’s got to realize he’s racing here in Atlanta, on my home turf,″ Nothstein said. ``So, I’m going to give him one hell of a fight.″
With at least a silver medal assured, Nothstein’s relieved coaches were already sporting victory cigars following his dominating performance.
``We’ve got a medal,″ U.S. sprint coach Andrzej Bek said. ``But tomorrow we go for the gold.″
Nothstein said he realized that it was pretty much up to him if the Americans are going to hear their own anthem at their own velodrome. Neither of the U.S. points racers are considered a threat in Sunday’s races.
The American pursuit team and their sleek SuperBikes were ousted in shocking fashion on Friday along with Rebecca Twigg in the women’s individual pursuit.
Those were two medals the Americans were counting on to go with the silver medal Erin Hartwell won in the 1-kilometer time trial.
``All along, I was telling people, `Hey we have an extremely strong team and we’re going to come here and do well,‴ Nothstein said. ``And I had to back it up a little bit by myself.″
Nothstein won in consecutive rides against both Hill and Harnett in the best-of-3 match sprints, where two riders jockey for position for two of the three laps, trying to gain an advantage for the final sprint, about 200 meters from the finish.
``I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m probably the sprinter with the most endurance out there,″ Nothstein said.
The 25-year-old Nothstein won a bronze at the world championships last year while racing with a fractured right kneecap. He’s been healthy this year.
``I’ve got an extremely great strength program, two of the best coaches in the world and I think I got to most guts and the biggest heart,″ he proclaimed.
It’s the French who have had the most success, however.
France won two more cycling medals on Saturday following a three-hour rain delay, giving the French four golds and a silver in five finals.
Felicia Ballanger beat Australia’s Michelle Ferris in the women’s sprint finals on Saturday, with Ingrid Haringa of the Netherlands defeating Germany’s Annett Neumann for the bronze.
The French pursuit team of Christophe Capelle, Philippe Ermenault, Jean-Michel Monin and Francis Moreau defeated Russia with an Olympic record time of four minutes, 5.930 seconds. Australia took the bronze.
Russia, which had set the record on Friday, finished in 4:07.730.
France’s Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli won the women’s road race last week, followed by Florian Rousseau with the gold the men’s 1-kilometer time trial. Ermenault took silver in the men’s individual pursuit.
And the French aren’t through yet.
Marion Clignet _ who was born in Hyde Park, Ill., but started riding for France in 1991 after a frustrating struggle with U.S. coaches _ faces world record-holder Antonella Bellutti of Italy in the women’s individual pursuit final on Sunday.