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IZU, Japan — Lauriane Genest surprised herself in her first Olympic Games by winning Canada's first track cycling medal in Tokyo.
The 23-year-old from Lévis, Que., took the bronze medal in the women's keirin Thursday at Izu Velodrome.
Genest crossed the line .148 seconds behind winner Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and .061 back of silver medallist Ellesse Andrews of New Zealand.
"It's a surprise in a way, but I think at the Olympics everyone has a shot," Genest said.
"I really came here today not having specifically the podium in mind. I went one race after the other one. Gave everything I had."
She just squeaked into Thursday's semifinals by placing fourth in her quarterfinal heat.
"They were really close races in quarters and semis, but I'm really happy I fought because obviously it paid off for a bronze medal in the final," she said.
Genest was the second Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal in an individual track cycling race after Edmonton's Lori-Ann Muenzer captured sprint gold in 2004.
“It’s a life accomplishment, honestly," Genest said. "We work so hard every day. We train so hard and it’s amazing to see the work pay off."
The keirin, which originated in Japan as a popular gambling race, is a six-lap race of the 250-metre track.
Cyclists sprint for the win after a controlled start behind a motorized or non-motorized pacer.
Speed gradually increases over the first three laps to about 50 kilometres per hour, and then accelerates to a sprint for the final three.
Keirin made its Olympic debut in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.
Genest was the first Canadian medallist in it. She was a road cyclist before switching to the track at age 16.
She was named to the national track cycling team in 2018. Genest won keirin gold at the Pan American championship the following year.
She and Kelsey Mitchell of Sherwood Park, Alta., both raced in Thursday's final. Mitchell placed fifth among six women.
Both Canadians will also race the women's sprint starting with Friday's heats. The final is Sunday.
"Tomorrow is the sprint, so I'll focus on that," Genest said. "I think I've got more in me, so 2024, and we never know."
Mitchell, 27, holds the world sprint record of 10.154 seconds, which she set two years ago in Bolivia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2021.
The Canadian Press