South Australia’s Stephanie Morton (SA) joined elite company on Friday by becoming just the fourth Australian woman to reach a world championship sprint podium.
As the new Olympic cycle begins to gain momentum, Morton proved herself as a serious contender on the world scene, with only reigning German’s Olympic and dual sprint world champion Kristina Vogel able to stop Morton’s charge at the individual crown.
It was Morton’s second silver of the week after partnering with McCulloch to win the team event on the opening day of competition.
“It is a bit surreal, it was a huge stepping stone for me to get to a final, and I am really proud,” said Morton, who was lucky to be at the Championships after suffering hairline fractures in her shoulder and concussion as the result of crashing heavily in the national women’s keirin final in March.
“I am pretty stoked to be here to be honest. But they said I wouldn’t make it any worse so it took lots of strapping, and a case of ‘grit your teeth’ and see how much pain you could take.
“So if you told me five weeks ago when I was lying on the floor at the Brisbane velodrome that I would have made two world championship finals at Worlds, I would have said you were crazy.”
Adelaide’s Morton sounded her first warning on Thursday as she topped qualifying for the second straight world championships in a blistering a personal best flying 200m time (10.724).
Morton then motored through the rounds of 1/16 and 1/8, before sending four-time track world champion Anastasia Voynova packing in two authoritative quarterfinals rides.
In the semi final, Morton’s maturing sprint prowess was on full display as she edged five-time sprint world championships medallist Simona Krupeckaite (UKR) in three thrilling heats.
In the final, Morton was pitted against one of the greats in Vogel, with the dual Olympic gold medallist just too good on the day as she claimed an eighth world title in two heats.
“That was the toughest bit of racing I have ever done,” 26, who bettered her career best fourth place secured in 2015.
“I always say that the qualifying and sprint rounds could be two different events, so when I qualify fastest, I don’t let it go to my head.
“I put it aside yesterday and got down to racing. I did the little things right that the coaches and I had set out for today.
“Getting over the top of Voynova, I was absolutely ecstatic with, and after that, it was about executing. And going to three with Krup in the semis, that was really tough.
“So it was mind over matter when it came to the final.
“And if you’re going to go down to anyone, it is the Olympic champ. She is a class act.”
However despite the breakthrough performance, Morton has her sights set on her next sprint battle.
“Yes I am going to soak it up, but it is “game on” once it comes to the next competition. That is the beauty of the sprint.”
Morton returns to the track on Sunday for a tilt at a third medal on the week in the keirin.