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Tara Whitten leads Canada to Olympic cycling bronze

Canada won bronze Saturday in women's team pursuit (Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)_opt

Veteran rider Tara Whitten and her teammates continued the Canadian knack for medalling in new Olympic events, nailing down bronze in women's team pursuit.

While the crowd, including Paul McCartney, was obviously focused on whether Great Britain could capture another gold in the velodrome, two commonwealth nations staged a thrilling undercard in the bronze-medal race. Whitten, the 32-year-old converted cross-country skier, and her teammates Gillian Carleton and Jasmin Glaesser came on late, clocking three minutes 17.915 seconds to edge Australia's Annette Edmondson, Melissa Hoskins and Josephine Tomic.

[Photos: Canadian women's team pursuit cycling team]

"It really feels amazing," Whitten said. "We had to regroup [from Friday] and I'm really proud of how the team came together today. We were just fighting the whole way and it's just amazing to have done it. We made a decision to use the energy of the crowd. It's so loud, you can either let it distract you or feed off that energy. We just did our own ride. It's been really exciting to see the depth of Canadian track cycling now."

Great Britain's Dani King, Joanne Roswell and Laura Trott won the gold-medal race in a world-record 3:14.051 over the United States' Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch and Jennie Reed (3:19.727).

Given Team GB's dominance in track cycling, the gold medal was really never in doubt; King, Roswell and Trott actually broke the world record twice during the event. But Whitten, Carleton and Glaesser, meshed very well at the right time in light of how recently the trio have become a team.

"We knew it was going to be a battle," Glaesser said. "We knew it was going to come down to the last lap, but we were 100% committed to doing our best."

Carleton's Olympics were in jeopardy after the Victoria, B.C., native fractured her pelvis in three places during a race in Kazakhstan in November 2011. The German-born Glaesser, of Port Coquitlam, B.C., also had the uncertainty of knowing of whether she would be able to race for the Maple Leaf in London while she waited to receive her Canadian citizenship.

[Video: Clara Hughes' nasty injury]

Make no mistake, the 32-year-old Whitten was the guts and glue of the team. The doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of Alberta had an unlikely route to the podium, switching over from skiing in 2007 after failing to make a stacked Canadian team for the '06 Turin Olympics that included medallists Sara Renner and Beckie Scott.

Clara Hughes, with her two bronze in 1996, was the only previous Canadian woman to medal in cycling, hitting the podium in the road race and time trial. Whitten is also representing Canada in the women's omnium on Monday and Tuesday.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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