Wood banishes crippling illness to win Commonwealth silver
By Tom Harle
Ollie Wood was proud as punch to shake off a crippling illness and take team pursuit silver at the Commonwealth Games.
The Wakefield star spent most of the week in the build-up to the home Games vomiting, meaning missed training sessions and sleepless nights.
It seemed to set back Great Ayton’s Charlie Tanfield, Ethan Vernon and Dan Bigham’s chances of claiming a major medal in front of an expectant home crowd.
But Wood and company raised their game when it mattered, starting with a qualifying effort of 3:50.796 that placed England second, a second behind New Zealand..
They were behind the eight-ball for the entirety of the gold medal final as the Kiwis, fielding the same line-up they did at the Tokyo Olympics, took victory by nearly two seconds.
In the circumstances, silver was a precious medal that Wood won against the odds.
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Wood said: “I caught a stomach bug at the start of the week that wiped me out for a good 48 hours.
“I was in my bed curled up in a ball, not feeling great, so we missed a few training sessions. Sometimes sport throws you these curveballs.
“It was about how we as a team overcame it and put a decent ride together on the day. If someone said to me I’d have been able to do that on Tuesday, I would have taken it.
“We were lacking in some areas but with what we had to deal with, we’re happy.”
For Tanfield bronze was worth its weight in gold as he begins to lance the boil of a nightmarish Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The 25-year-old was called in as a late replacement for veteran Ed Clancy and then caught in controversy as he collided with a Danish rider, one of the favourites for Olympic gold.
“I had a really tough time in Tokyo, it was horrible for me,’ he said.
“I feel as though that will make me strong in the long run, because it really put things into perspective and scared the life out of me really, I don’t want that to happen again.
“I feel as though I've come a long way as an athlete in the last year. To come out of this as one of the guys contributing and not being the weak link was really good.”
There was bronze too for Huddersfield’s Maddie Leech in the women’s team pursuit.
The 19-year-old, who was inspired by watching Laura Kenny do her thing at Rio 2016, stood on the podium with the five-time Olympic champion at a home Games.
Leech, Kenny, Sophie Lewis and Josie Knight were more than five seconds slower than Australia in qualifying who broke the Games record and three short of New Zealand.
They did enough to secure a battle for bronze and beat familiar foes in Wales when it came to it, taking victory in a time of 4:17.096 and by a margin of 1.796 seconds.
Leech crashed at the Glasgow Nations Cup, had concussion and didn’t race for six weeks before contracting Covid on her return.
She said: “I’m happy to put all that behind me. I’ve had a tough few months trying to come back so I didn’t know what I’d race like this year.
“Laura and Josie have so much depth and knowledge and they’ve helped us use that to have a good race.
“It’s amazing, we knew it would be tight with the Welsh guys but it was great to pull it out of the bag in the final.”
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