Team USA's Jennifer Valente wins women's omnium

Jennifer Valente of Team United States celebrates winning the gold medal while holding the flag of her country during the Women's Omnium points race, 4 round of 4 of the track cycling on day sixteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Izu Velodrome on August 08, 2021 in Izu, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Jennifer Valente of Team United States celebrates winning the gold medal while holding the flag of her country during the Women's Omnium points race, 4 round of 4 of the track cycling on day sixteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Izu Velodrome on August 08, 2021 in Izu, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Jennifer Valente has won Team USA's first gold medal in track cycling since 2000 with victory in the women's omnium; two-time defending champion Laura Kenny sixth.

Team USA's Jennifer Valente is the new Olympic champion in women's omnium, winning two of the event's four races at the Izu Velodrome to become the first-ever US woman to win a track cycling title at the Olympics.

Entering the fourth and final event, the points race, the 2019 world bronze medallist held a narrow, two-point lead over reigning world champion KAJIHARA Yumi of Japan.

However, the 26-year-old American finished with a score of 124, 14 points ahead of Kajihara, who took the silver.

Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands clinched the bronze with 108 points.

"I'm really happy when it feels like I won a medal," said Wild. "(At) the Olympics, you win medals.

"It’s a process of years. Since the omnium changed, since this Olympics. I think it's more events for me, and I showed (that) with some world titles.

"This medal is completing a lot for me."

However, the bronze will be last medal the Dutch rider wins, as she plans to retire.

"I think this was my last omnium. I’m not going to pull that off once more. It costs too many years of my life."

Valente’s gold is the USA’s gold on the track in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. It is also America’s first gold in track cycling since Marty Nothstein won the individual sprint in Sydney in 2000.

"Olympic gold, still the sound of it, I can’t get over," said Valente. "It’s hard to believe, it’ll sink in eventually but it hasn’t quite yet."

Great Britain have won the only golds in the women's omnium prior to Tokyo with Laura Kenny, nee Trott, claiming the titles in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.

But in Tokyo, the two-time champion’s reign came to an end following a crash on the penultimate lap in the first event, the scratch race.

Although she recovered well, topping the tables in the tempo race and the points race, Kenny finished sixth overall.

The omnium is one of the most gruelling cycling events at the Olympics.

Introduced at the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the event now consists of four events that take place on the same day. It was previously six.

After winning bronze in the team pursuit, followed by a ninth-place finish in the madison, Valente was on a quest for a second medal in Tokyo.

The American rider put herself in a strong position from the first race. She won the scratch race, collecting 40 points; finished third in the tempo race for another 36; and earned 34 for her fourth place in the elimination race.

This gave her a slender lead going into the final event, the 80-lap points race.

A crash in the latter half of the points race almost cost Valente the gold, but she was able to get back into the race without missing the next sprint.

The tables turned back in two-time Olympic team pursuit medallist's favour when Kajihara also crashed after clashing wheels with another rider.

"Yeah, (there were) some bumps," said Valente on the event, including her fall in the points race. "It was actually quite a short day as far as omnium goes.

"Crashing in the point races is never ideal. I was just trying to get back on my bike, make sure I was OK, and get back in the race as soon as possible."

Although Kenny outscored the field with 24, Valente’s score of 14 was enough for her to take the title.

"So much, so many training sessions," said Valente on what went into winning the final. "But also so many people, (which) I think is the important thing to remember.

"Now I'm the one on the podium, but there's a huge support team with both the staff and my teammates.

"All my team pursuit teammates that were here at the beginning of the week.

"It just means so much to do this for everyone that put so much time and so much effort into helping us."