Kathy Watt: Australia

KATHY WATT

Kath had always been a good alround athlete. Her father, Geoff Watt had been a great marathon runner and had climber Mt. Kilimanjaro before he died in 1969, lost in the snow while on a mountain training run. Kathy had also been a long distance runner and a national junior champion until she was forced to turn to triathlon and cycling because of chronic tendon problems in 1986. She qualified for both the road race and the 300 m track pursuit in Barcelona but her coaches from the Australian Cycling Federation insisted that she concentrate on the road race. This way she wasn't able to practice on the track for three months until the three days between her gold medal win in the road race and the pursuit race. According to Dawn Fraser who spoke with her often, she was the most focused athlete at the games. Kathy, a tiny deceptive cyclist with a shock of cropped, dyed- yellow hair but she was a tough as any of her male team mates and could handle any pressure. Most of the Australian media hadn't even heard of her and none of the commentators even picked her as an outside chance even though she set out to win Australia's first gold medal of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in a 16.2 kilometre road race.
Kathy powered through most of the course buried in the pack which included Monique Knol - Olympic defending champion, Leontein Van Moorsel - world champion, and the French champion Jeannie Longo- Ciprellis. All of these champions had records on the European circuit and none of them paid any attention to her. Since she was no threat to them, when she gambled and broke away in the last lap they let her go, figuring that they could easily catch her as mostly they were busy watching each other. By the time they realised she really was a threat and gave chase, Kathy already had a 45 second break over them and even though they stormed after her it was too late and Kathy crossed the line 20 seconds before Longo-Ciprelli with a time of 2 minutes 4.42 seconds.
Kathy Watt was the first Australian Woman to win a gold medal in a cycling event.
On the night of the 3000m track event, Kathy qualified fastest out of the seventeen contestants in the individual pursuit and won both her quarter-final and semi-final but when she ran in the final she came out fast and had a clear lead of 2 seconds after 1000m and at the 2km mark she was still in front by a second. She fought over the final laps but when Petra Rossner of Germany made her final assault, Watt didn't have the reserve to hold on and went down by 1.685 seconds. Even though she only earned silver in this event, she still made the Barcelona Olympics into a great Olympics for Australia.

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