For more than two years before the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, three young women - Sara Carrigan, Oenone Wood and Olivia Gollan - nursed the certain conviction that this moment would come: one of them would be standing on the victory dais, a national heroine, with a gold medal looped around her neck. They just didn’t know which one. But what was beyond doubt, they knew, was that the other two would have helped mightily in fashioning that victory. Road cycling is by its nature a team sport, even when the prizes are for individuals … and this trio was tightly bonded.
In the end it was Carrigan, 23, who went to the front in the final straight after almost 3 ½ hours of tough riding to win the Olympic road race, while her team-mates worked hard to block the opposition. The victory, 12 years after Kathy Watt won the road race in Barcelona, made Carrigan the nation’s second woman cyclist ever to win Olympic gold. The three Australians worked to a simple plan: to hunt as a pack for most of the race, and for the rider in the best position to press when it counted. While Wood controlled a chasing bunch of six, Carrigan duelled for the lead with German champion Judith Arndt over the last lap, finally destroying her with a powerful finish.
Carrigan, who began her cycling career in 1996 at the age of 15, came from the NSW town of Gunnedah - where, on the night of her victory, the lights stayed on all night. She took a break from cycling after the Athens Games returning in time to qualify for Beijing, where she finished 38th in the road event.
Harry Gordon, AOC Historian