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Mark Downey tunes up for madison bid with 17th-place finish in the omnium

Matthew Walls won gold for Britain ahead of New Zealand’s Campbell Stewart and Italy’s Elia Viviani.

Downey finished 17th in the men's omnium.
Downey finished 17th in the men's omnium.
Image: Jasper Jacobs

IRELAND’S MARK DOWNEY finished 17th in the men’s omnium on Thursday as Matthew Walls won Britain’s first track cycling gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics.

Walls was a clear winner at the Izu Velodrome, finishing 24 points ahead of New Zealand’s Campbell Stewart and a further five clear of Italy’s Elia Viviani.

Downey, from Dromore in County Down, was racing ahead of his preferred competition, the madison, where he will compete alongside team-mate Felix English on Saturday.

The 25-year-old finished 16th in the first of the four omnium events, the 10km scratch race, before placing 19th in both the 10km tempo race and the elimination race.

That left Downey in 19th place overall heading into the final event, the points race, where he didn’t compete for any sprint points but crossed the line in ninth place to move up to 17th overall.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Downey said afterwards. “I’m an athlete, I like to compete, but look, it’s my first omnium at this level.

“I threw the kitchen sink at it. It’s not a banging result. It is what it is.”

“We got this race off the back of the madison, so I’m looking forward to going again with Felix. He’s super-motivated back in the hotel so I’m not too disappointed with the result.

“The level we know is really, really high here so I can’t be too disappointed, and we’ll move forward again.”

Walls was among the leaders from the start, as a pack of five pulled away in the scratch race before the Briton powered through at the finish to take the maximum 40 points.

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He finished third in the tempo, the top three of Walls, France’s Benjamin Thomas and Jan Willem van Schip of the Netherlands all level, but both Thomas and Van Schip slipped up in the elimination, giving Walls a four-point lead heading into the final race.

Walls never let go of his lead, gaining a lap on the field early on in the points race and holding off both Campbell and a surging Viviani to extend his advantage and win gold.

– Additional reporting © AFP, 2021

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Niall Kelly

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