Phinney gives pursuit a whirl
BEIJING -- A half hour or so into the qualification round of the men's individual pursuit last Friday, spectators in Section 113 at the Laoshan Velodrome found themselves on the receiving end of a recruiting pitch.
"That rider is my son," announced
Here is a woman who feels very much at home at the Olympics. After competing in speedskating at the 1972 Winter Games, Carpenter-Phinney switched to cycling. Having captured 12 national titles and four world championship medals, she won a gold medal at the '84 Olympics, and retired the next day.
There she was, six Summer Games later, looking on with unalloyed joy as her son,
The field's youngest rider -- he turned 18 last month -- the 6-foot-4, 170-pound Phinney went out like the newbie he is, blazing through his first lap in 20.3 seconds, the swiftest opening lap of the night. The problem was, he had 15 more to go. Having taken an early lead on Ukraine's
"Wow, he's hurtin'," said
While that time slotted him into fifth place, Taylor was only assured of advancing after the next race, in which Ireland's
That was as good as it got for the Mini-Phinney, who was trounced the following day by New Zealand's
A year ago, the kid didn't know the individual pursuit from Trivial Pursuit. But Connie explained it to him -- she's a former world champion in the discipline -- and he decided to give it a whirl. He won the U.S. national championship. In his first race. His fourth race was a World Cup event in Carson, Calif. He won. He qualified for the Olympics, then set a junior world record in the 3,000-meter pursuit.
But as stellar a year as the son had, his father had a better one. Since undergoing a procedure called deep brain stimulation this spring, Davis has experienced a stunning reduction in the symptoms of his early-onset Parkinson's disease, with which he was diagnosed eight years ago. While he is not cured -- there is no cure for Parkinson's -- his quality of life is vastly improved.
"For the first time in eight years," he says, "I'm eating sushi with chopsticks." The greatest gift, he said with a broad smile last Saturday, "is that I'm here to see my son race in the Olympics. I'm gonna live off this buzz for a long time."
He'll be able to recharge that buzz, in all likelihood, four years from now. While Taylor will be much more likely to medal in London, it's less certain that he'll have any more fun than he did at these Games. Few athletes seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as he was, whether striking
When Wiggins lapped his opponent on Saturday, Phinney ended up seventh in the final standings, prompting his mother to point out that she'd placed seventh in her first Olympics, too. "Great," Taylor replied. "Now all I have to do is switch sports and wait 14 more years, and I'll get a medal too."
He'll get his medal. And it's not going to take that long.