Jennifer Valente gave the hard-luck American cycling team a reason to hold their heads high Sunday when she got up from a crash in the omnium-ending points race to secure U.S. cycling’s only gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
And that wasn’t the biggest crash of the day.
Italian rider Elisa Balsamo hit Emily Kay of Ireland as they began the final lap of the scratch race, the first event of the omnium, triggering a massive front-stretch pile-up that brought down seven riders.
With the riders and their bikes tangled in a heap on the track apron, Valente seized the opportunity and outsprinted Yumi Kajihara and Annette Edmondson to win the race for maximum points.
In the final race of the entire Olympic cycling program, Valente won the first sprint in the points race to pad her lead, then got up from a crash with 30 laps left to keep from losing any ground on her closest pursuers. She wound up taking second in the final sprint to secure the gold medal — then broke down in tears when she got off her bike.
Kajihara took silver for Japan. Kirsten Wild earned bronze for the Netherlands.