When Jason Queally pressed his bike over the finish line at Sydney’s Dunc Gray Velodrome 17 years ago, it signalled a sea change of British fortunes at the Olympic Games.
Four years previous, British viewers had sat through an insipid performances across the board in Atalanta where Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent brought home a sole gold medal.
In Sydney, it took less than 24 hours for Britain to match it as Queally claimed a surprise gold medal in the 1km time trial on the opening day of the 27th Olympiad.
The Preston rider, then 30, had headed to Australia as an outside medal hope, ranked fifth in the world but some way down on the top times in the world.
That all changed quickly as Queally went 13th of 16 competitors in the straight, four laps charge against the clock.
The British rider stopped the clock in a new Olympic Record time of 1:01.609, slicing more than a second and half off his previous personal best.
A nervous wait followed as the top ranked riders tried to knock him down the leaderboard. Shane Kelly, the man who had beaten Queally to gold at the Commonwealth Games two years previous, went ahead of his time early in his quest to secure the host’s first gold.
But the Australian faded over the last two laps leaving the final rider, France’s Arnaud Tournant as the only man able to knock Queally off his perch.
However, the world record holder came up short and Queally became the first British cyclist to win Olympic gold since Chris Boardman won the 4,000m pursuit title on the track in Barcelona 1992.
“It’s incredible. I don’t know where the time came from,” Queally said.
“I just cannot believe it, I’m speechless – I came here thinking a potential medal, maybe a bronze, but it all depends on what happens on the day – something strange happened.”
It capped a remarkable turnaround of fortunes for Queally after he had missed Britain’s abject Games in Atalanta following a horrific injury earlier in the year.
Queally was racing on a banked wooden track at Meadowbank in Scotland when he was knocked off his bike by two competitors. On sliding down the track, a slim wooden plank that had somehow come away from the surface speared into his back, tearing a muscle.
The injury changed Queally’s mindset towards the sport and he focused on the time trial events due to a distrust of cycling alongside others inside the Velodrome.
Of course, his success was a catalyst for a period of British dominance on the track with Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy and Laura and Jason Kenny all securing multiple gold medals at Olympic Games.
However, Queally’s own Olympic career came to a halt. Sir Chris Hoy was selected ahead of him for the 1k time trial in 2004, a move which brought the Scot the first of his six Olympic gold medals.
After failing to qualify again in 2008, Queally retired – with his preferred event taken off the Olympic roster.
A brief return saw him compete at the 2010 World Championships but failure to earn selection for London 2012 led him to change paths and ride in as a pilot in Paralympic tandem events.