Right After Making History, U.S. Cyclist Collapses

Kristin Armstrong is the world’s oldest female cycling medalist

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Recovering from years of hip injuries, barely making it to Rio after some question of her selection, and with a nosebleed she developed mid-race, Kristin Armstrong just became the oldest female cyclist to snag a gold medal.

Thursday is Armstrong’s 43rd birthday, and she has a lot to celebrate. She was only confirmed to compete one week before the Rio games, after a protracted arbitration hearing called by U.S. time trials champion Carmen Small. Her spot was ultimately secured, but it was a struggle.

This was Armstrong’s third Olympic victory—she took home gold in Beijing in 2008 and again in London four years ago. On top of coming out of retirement to be the oldest female cycling champ, she also earned the distinction of being the first cyclist to win three gold medals in the same discipline.

“Did I win?” Armstrong (no relation to Lance) asked people around her, upon completing Wednesday’s race. When it was confirmed, she collapsed on the ground and was checked out by medics. Shortly after, her 5-year-old son, Lucas, ran out for a hug.

Armstrong’s arbitration victory came on the heels of a three-year cycling break she took to recover from multiple hip surgeries. It was unclear whether she would return to the world of competition, making Wednesday’s victory all the more stunning. She beat Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya (herself just returned to cycling after an 18-month substance-related ban) by nearly five seconds.

Armstrong credits her teammate Mara Abbott for helping her believe she could win once more. Abbott kept leaving notes for Armstrong to find, simply marked “You are a champion.”

"I knew today I had to give it everything for my team and for Mara. The last 24 hours she has been leaving me notes. There was one on my coffee cup yesterday, I found another one on my hairbrush, last night there was one on my pillow,” Armstrong told Reuters.

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