British cyclists relegated in women's team sprint
Fri, 03 Aug 2012 5:40a.m.
By Samuel Petrequin
The British team of Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish were disqualified from the women's team sprint Thursday for making an early change, a decision met with boos from the crowd of 6,000 fans.
The decision dashed the medal hopes of the home favourites - who had just broken the world record during qualifying, only for the Chinese team of Jinjie Gong and Shuang Guo to twice lower the mark.
During the two-lap race, the leadoff rider is required to give way to the second rider at a certain point on the track. British cycling officials conferred with judges at the London Velodrome, and performance director Dave Brailsford was seen shaking his head.
Pendleton and Varnish had posted the second best time of the first round and would have faced the Chinese for the gold medal if it had not been for their rule infringement.
Germany was promoted to the final, while Australia was to take on Ukraine in the match for the bronze medal.
"It was an illegal change," Pendleton said. "I came through in the change zone about a metre too early. We are talking about one hundredth of a second of a mistake there."
It was not the first time British riders were disqualified at a major tournament. Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes were relegated in the men's team sprint at the worlds in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this year.
"Jess moved up a fraction too early and I just saw the door and went for it, because that's my cue to try to squeeze underneath her as quickly as possible," Pendleton added. "It's one of those things that happens. It's quicker than a blink of an eye. You have to stick by the rules. The rules are there to make it a fair sport. Unfortunately we fell on the wrong side of that today."
The women's team sprint is a new event in the Olympic track cycling program.
Pendleton will retire after the London Games and was bidding to add new medals to the Olympic sprint title she won in Beijing. She also plans to compete in the keirin and the individual sprint in London.
Pendleton won the sprint at the worlds after defeating archrival Anna Meares of Australia in the semifinals.
The 21-year-old Varnish, who used to have posters of Pendleton in her room, will have to wait four more years for her next Olympic appearance.
"It's not quite her Games over because she's going to have many more Olympic Games to go to, I'm sure," Pendleton said. "This is the end for me but it's just the beginning for Jess."
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