GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - Sam Gaze’s elation at winning the Commonwealth Games’ mountain biking gold medal on Thursday quickly turned sour after he criticised New Zealand team mate and silver medallist Anton Cooper of poor sportsmanship.
He later issued an apology for his comments.
Gaze, who finished second behind Cooper at Glasgow four years ago, reversed the result on the Nerang mountain bike trails despite having to stop and have a puncture fixed on the final lap.
Cooper, however, continued to race and tried to pull away from the 22-year-old Gaze, who still managed to catch his compatriot and South Africa’s Alan Hatherly on the final lap of the 32.2-kilometre circuit and win by about two bike lengths.
Gaze was not impressed by the fact Cooper had exploited his misfortune. In road cycling typically the peleton will slow if the leader has suffered mechanical difficulties.
“There is good sportsmanship and there’s not, and I feel like that wasn’t there today,” Gaze said of Cooper’s decision to ride away. “It’s a bit of a shame really, I’ve got the utmost respect for the guy, still, even with that move.
“That’s racing, you can’t get along with everyone.”
Cooper said that he initially had no idea why Gaze had temporarily stopped.
“I saw him pull into the tech zone so I was aware that something had happened but I had no idea what,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“I thought it was odd because we followed him down the last downhill and through the start-finish area and his tire looked fine.
“I heard he had a flat or something but I thought I’m not going to sit around and ask questions why.
“If you have a puncture in a mountain bike race it’s a personal error. That’s the part of mountain bike racing, it’s not road racing. We get back on and just crack on.”
Gaze later issued an apology for his comments and said he realised they had taken the gloss off the second 1-2 finish for the duo at the Commonwealth Games.
“I have caught up with Anton and apologised personally,” Gaze said in a statement later. “I acted in the heat of the moment... and want to apologise for my words and my actions.
“I am really embarrassed for how I acted and how the impact of how special of a day it was for New Zealand Cycling was tainted by my actions.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly