Oct. 17, 2011, 10:01 p.m. (ET)

(GUADALAJARA, Mexico) – Two years after the US disbanded its sprint program in track cycling, it set a national record (twice) in the men’s team sprint event on Monday and captured a silver medal at the Pan Am Games – thanks, in part, to the leadership of a British Olympic champion.

“After the Beijing Olympics, we unplugged the whole thing and started from scratch,” said Jim Miller, the Vice President of Athletics at USA Cycling.

It had been years since Marty Nothstein took the silver in the individual sprint at the Sydney Olympics and turned it into gold in Athens. And it had been decades since US riders Mark Gorski and Nelson Vails went 1-2 in the event at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“Then, through a tunnel in Copenhagen [at the 2010 track cycling world championships] I saw Jamie Staff. He asked me when we were going to re-do the sprint program,” Miller said. 

Staff had been a three-time world champion for Great Britain and a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the team sprint.

A few months later, Miller e-mailed him to see if he might be interested in becoming the US sprint director.

“Are you serious?” Staff replied.

“Dead serious,” Miller responded.

One of Staff’s first acts was to identify new talent by holding an open call for riders at the velodrome at the Home Depot Center at Carson, California, last summer.

Since then, Staff’s minions have grown to include Jimmy Watkins, a fireman from Bakersfield, California; Dean Tracy who worked at a bike shop in Portland, Oregon, and, more recently, the 2008 Olympian Michael Blatchford.

Blatchford, 25, retired in 2009 when the US sprint program dissolved and when he heard about the new program, he said, “It was enticing, but we’d had coaching changes before so I wasn’t holding my breath.”

There were, however, a few major plusses. Staff’s training base was in Carson, California, and Blatchford was attending school and living with his parents in nearby Cypress.

Also, Blatchford said, “Jamie had great energy right off the bat. He’s fresh out of the sport. He knows what it’s like from an athlete’s perspective.”

The group now includes 12 men and women whom Staff has given a systematic approach to training and far more detailed technical analysis than they’ve had in the past.

So far, Staff’s approach seems to be working.

On Monday at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Blatchford, Tracy, and Watkins captured the silver medal in the team sprint (behind Venezuela) in 44.036 seconds, lowering an unofficial U.S. record they had just set in qualifying that morning by .191 seconds.

The trio in Guadalajara didn’t even include Kevin Mansker who, according to Staff, has set nine track records this year.

“We’ve never really had depth before,” Blatchford said.

 In London, three of the five track cycling disciplines will be sprints (individual sprint, team sprint, and the Keirin). The US has yet to qualify for any of them, but the World Cup season begins in November in Astana, Kazakstan.

After London, Staff would like to implement a three-pronged program.

“I want to create a talent program to find riders, a full-time academy program, and an elite program,” he said.  

Staff would also like to educate sprint coaches nationwide by writing a sprinters’ manual. At present, he said, “there’s a lack of sprint coaches so a lot of athletes are pushed toward the endurance route.” And, of course, he would like to have athletes on the Olympic podium in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“It’s really based on rebuilding toward Rio 2016,” Miller added. ”That gives us six years to build in increments without forcing anything.”

A return to the glory days of US sprinting may be years away but already, the renaissance looks promising.

Aimee Berg is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.