With five-time individual pursuit world champion Sarah Hammer switching her focus to different events, the door had been opened for other U.S. track cyclists to fill her shoes. The opportunity has officially been seized, as Chloe Dygert earned her first career individual pursuit championship at the 2017 UCI Track World Championships in Hong Kong.
Dygert faced off against Australia's Ashlee Ankudinoff of Australia in the gold-medal final and won handily, finishing in 3:24.641 to Ankudinoff's 3:31.784. Teammate Kelly Catlin joined Dygert on the podium with her bronze-medal finish, beating Australia's Rebecca Wiasak by less than a second, 3:30.365 to Wiasak’s 3:31.173.
“It’s really special, there are no words,” Dygert said in a television interview after her win.
In the qualifying round, Dygert nearly beat Hammer's world-record time of 3:22.269, set in 2010. Dygert came in less than a second slower, at 3:22.920, and celebrated with Hammer upon winning gold. Hammer was the last U.S. woman to top the world championship individual pursuit podium, doing so in 2013.
Just 20 years old, Dygert has been on a tear since the 2016 edition of the world championships. Along with Catlin, she helped make history on the team pursuit squad that year, taking home the first gold medal in the event by U.S. women, and qualified for her first Olympic team in the process. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, she and Catlin earned team pursuit silver and, earlier this season, they were on the squad that took team pursuit gold at the world cup in Los Angeles. Just several days earlier in Hong Kong, they defended their team pursuit world title, along with Jennifer Valente and Kim Geist. Dygert's individual pursuit gold is the first individual elite gold medal of her career.
Action in Hong Kong concludes on Sunday with Hammer competing in the women's points race.