Alex Porter’s courageous effort helps Aussies win bronze
To win a medal at the Games is a tremendous feat in itself…but to do it in the face of adversity demonstrates an incredible amount of courage, as was shown by Alex Porter in Tokyo on the cycling track.
The SASI graduate is no stranger to tackling challenges head on, having overcome a broken collarbone, six cracked ribs and a lung puncture in just six weeks, to pull on the green and gold at the 2019 Track World Championships.
Fast forward to the Tokyo 2020 Games during the Men's Team Pursuit qualifiers and the quartet of Leigh Howard, Kelland O'Brien, Sam Welsford and Alex Porter were less than 1km into their 4km, when Porter hit the boards of the Izu Velodrome after the handlebars snapped off his bike.
The team immediately called off their initial qualifier and the injuries/shock of the incident were immediately felt by Porter.
“I lost most of the skin down the centre of my face and I’ve taken a good chunk off my arm and to be honest my brain is still trying to work it out,” Porter said when recalling the accident.
“I remember, I’d done my turn, I was on the back and was just trying to settle in and get ready for my next go at the front.
“Then all of a sudden I’ve just felt my arms pointing down and then I could just see the track getting closer to my face.
“At first, it kind of felt like a dream because my brain couldn’t work out what was quite happening and then just before I hit the track it kind of clicked that something at the front of my bike had just fallen away and before I knew it I was sliding.”
The boys bravely had another attempt in the qualifiers with a battered and bruised Porter leading out the first lap.
“It’s the Olympic Games; this is what we’ve trained all this time for,” Porter said at the time.
“I’m not letting something like this stop us now.
“We’ve got everyone behind us; this is just a minor speedbump – let’s go again.”
In a courageous second ride, the team placed 5th with a time of 3:48.448.
The result meant our Aussies missed out on an opportunity to contest for the gold medal, leaving bronze as their only option to win a medal.
It was a devastating blow for the boys who knew they had a good shot at taking out top spot on the podium in the lead up the Games.
“I was really angry…I was really frustrated – we’d all put in so much hard work.
“I had this feeling before the start that we were going to be able to go out there and do something special.”
Despite the disappointment, the team showed the world what they were made of, bouncing back in the heats the following day and smashing the Australian record for the Team Pursuit with a time of 3:44.902.
While Porter was still nursing his injuries from the crash, Lucas Plapp came in as a substitute to help the team earn a spot in the bronze medal race.
In their final ride, Howard, Plapp, O’Brien and Welsford put in another gutsy effort to win the bronze medal over New Zealand, who unfortunately had a crash of their own where the Australians ended the race by catching the Kiwis.
Porter watched the race from the sidelines; still just as big a part of the team as he was when racing on the track.
“This is the first time I’ve watched the team pursuit and felt like I was 100% out there on the track.
“They’ve had my back the whole way through this process and I was just so pleased that they were able to go out there and have the chance to show everyone what they’re capable of.”
While a gold medal would have been nice to win, the merit in bringing home a bronze medal under such challenging circumstances is something which is just as special.