By Martyn Herman
BERLIN (Reuters) – Denmark’s men’s team pursuit squad installed themselves as hot favorites for the Tokyo Olympics as they powered to gold at the world championships with a third world record in little over 24 hours on Thursday.
The quartet of Rasmus Pedersen, Lasse Hansen, Julius Johansen and Frederik Madsen once again proved in a class of their own as they destroyed New Zealand in the final.
Denmark had shattered reigning world champions Australia’s world record in qualifying on Wednesday, then lowered it again in the first round.
There was much more in the tank, however, as the Danes roared around Berlin’s velodrome, almost reeling in the New Zealanders to clock 3:44.672 for the 4,000 meters event, 1.5 seconds faster than their record on Wednesday.
Only a smattering of their countrymen were in the velodrome to witness Denmark’s first team pursuit world title since 2009, but they should have been forgiven belting out the old soccer classic “we are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite.”
Britain, who have won the last three Olympic titles in the blue riband event, and Australia, who were outclassed here in the bronze medal race, have work to do.
“We knew we were going to have to break the world record to win here, but to do 3:44, it’s just madness to be honest,” Madsen told reporters.
“We never dreamed about this but hard work pays off. But to win the Olympics we will have to go even faster. Maybe 3:42 to win the gold. We have some small gains to make, but we know Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Britain do too.”
To put their exploits in Berlin into perspective, Britain’s gold-medal winning time at the Rio Games four years ago was 3:50.265, almost six seconds slower.
“They have pushed the bar through the roof,” New Zealand’s silver medallist Aaron Gate said. “Massive hats off to the Danes, they were in another league.”
There was no world record in the women’s final as the United States, powered by Chloe Dygert, beat Britain to gold.
Britain’s four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny made a surprising appearance in the first round, having said she would skip team pursuit as she recovers from a broken shoulder.
Kenny sat out the final though and the American quartet of Dygert, Jennifer Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams were too strong as they reclaimed the title they won from 2016 to 2018.
While the Danes left the Berlin crowd in awe, the Dutch continued their great start to the championships as Harrie Lavreysen followed up his gold in the men’s team sprint to win the keirin, edging out Japan’s Yuta Wakimoto who took silver.
Malaysia’s ‘pocket rocket’ Azizulhasni Awang took bronze.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)