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Cyclist Sarah Hammer Gives Up Retirement, Gains Olympic Berth

In 2003 American Sarah Hammer quit the sport of track cycling after an impressive junior career. But after she watched the 2004 Athens Olympics on television, she came out of retirement and has had great success. As Chris Cox reports, Hammer goes into her first Olympics with the thought of gold on her mind.

Sarah Hammer grew up around cycling. Her father was a road cyclist who would take part in races near where the Hammers lived whenever he could.

But track cycling, Sarah's sport, is much different than road racing. Track cycling involves athletes riding around a circular, banked track at a venue known as a velodrome. At the new velodrome in Beijing, which will have an all-weather wooden surface, cyclists could reach speeds of 60 kilometers per hour during a sprint. It is this kind of riding that Hammer loves to do.

Even though Hammer's specialty is riding in circles on the track, she got into cycling because of her father and his road racing. "I got into it just by following him to races when I was little and, you know, flipping lap cards for the teams and begging my parents to get me a real bike, a road bike for my eighth birthday. They got it for me and it was way too big. You know, it was the smallest one you could get. You know, the seat was smashed all the way down onto the top tube," she said.

Hammer now looks to promote and grow the sport of track cycling, especially with women. To do this she started a foundation called the American Women's Track Cycling Fund (AWTCF).

"The goal of the AWTCF is to kind of give track cycling more of a name, especially to women. I think track cycling doesn't get the press or the ridership that it really needs or that it would want. I think when people do get on the track they love it. For women, I think it's another great thing just to get out there, get on your bike and get some great exercise," she said.

Although the foundation is important to her, Sarah Hammer's focus, right now, is on the Olympics.

Hammer is the world record holder in the 3,000 meters Women's Individual Pursuit. She is also a two-time World Champion in the event. She is expected to get her biggest Olympic challenge from the woman who dethroned her as world champion earlier this year - Rebecca Romero of Britain. But Hammer feels she's capable of winning the Olympic gold.

"Oh absolutely, yeah. I mean that's all I, all I think about. You know when I wake up in the morning that's what I train for. I train, you know, to win," she said.

Since coming out her retirement in 2005, winning is what Sarah Hammer has done. The two World Championships in 2006 and 2007 made her the first American women to claim back-to-back world titles in 20 years. Hammer also has six first-place finishes in International Cycling Union Track World Cup events since 2006.

Hammer and the other track cyclists begin their five days of Olympic competition on August 15.