A Dutch cyclist who mistakenly thought she had won gold said a quirk in the Olympic rules led to the heartbreaking error

A Dutch cyclist who mistakenly thought she had won gold said a quirk in the Olympic rules led to the heartbreaking error
Ronald Hoogendoorn/BSR Agency/Getty Images
  • Annemiek van Vleuten suffered a bit of heartbreak after she had believed she won gold at Tokyo 2020.
  • After crossing the finish line with her arms raised for victory, she later learned she won silver.
  • The miscommunication stemmed from a quirk in the Olympic rules that makes communicating harder.

A silver medal at the Olympics should be celebrated, but second place can be a disappointing result depending on the circumstances.

Such was the case for Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten, who momentarily believed she won gold in the women's road race at Tokyo 2020, only to learn later she had been second to cross the finish line.

As van Vleuten rode the final meters of the 137-kilometer (85-mile) race, she raised her arms triumphantly, believing her time of three hours and 54 minutes had secured her first Olympic gold medal. She later found out that Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer had already beaten her to the line.


"I didn't know," van Vleuten said after, Sky Sports reported. "I was wrong."

She continued: "I thought I had won. I'm gutted about this, of course. At first, I felt really stupid, but then the others also did not know who had won."

The loss was a result of miscommunication more than anything. Unlike other competitions, at the Olympics, race radios are not permitted to ease communication for riders on the course. When van Vleuten made her break from the front of the pack, she didn't realize one rider was still in front of her.


"It summarises it quite well if after the finish we are asking each other who had won, and what the time gaps were," van Vleuten said in a post-race press conference, per CyclingNews.

"We didn't know. We heard 45 seconds with 10km to go. It showed that there was a lot of confusion and not only with me. It was in the Dutch team but also the other [countries]. In the most important race, you're not allowed to ride with communication, which we usually do. It should make the race more interesting, but it made the race more confusing."

Kiesenhofer's win was no fluke - the goal is to cross the line first, as she did in thrilling fashion. But still, the result is understandably frustrating for van Vleuten. Had she known there was still one more rider to chase down, she might have found an extra gear and made a run at gold.


Instead, she'll have to settle for silver, at least until Paris 2024.