By Agence France Presse
Cycling Australia said Saturday it was surprised and disappointed at the decision of the sport’s world governing body to axe the men’s kilometer and the women’s 500m race from the Beijing Olympic program.
The two events were removed from the program for the 2008 Games to make way for the Olympics debut of BMX, the UCI said on Friday.
“All federations were invited to make submissions to the UCI and this is certainly the first we’ve heard that the track time trial events were being targeted for removal from the Games program,” Cycling Australia chief executive Graham Fredericks said in a statement here Saturday.
“I would have to say this is especially disappointing for the women sprinters who now only have one event they can contest at Olympic Games level. “We were very strongly against any women’s track medals being dropped because of the knock-on effect it may have on women’s sprint cycling across the board.”
The women’s 500m time trial was introduced at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Reigning world record holder and Athens Olympic gold medalist Anna Meares said she was shocked by the UCI’s decision.
“I am very disappointed to put it politely and really mad to be honest,” Meares said in the statement. “I don’t understand their logic. I think they should have looked at other avenues because the time trials are two of the most exciting events on the track.
“It feels like all of a sudden instead of training and working hard to achieve two goals at Olympics they’ve just cut my career in half. It will also now make it harder to get sponsorship and support because I will have just one race and one chance for exposure.”
The men’s kilo was introduced to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928, and Edgar “Dunc” Gray’s 1932 victory in the event was Australia’s first-ever cycling Olympic gold medal. Russell Mockridge brought the gold medal back to Australia after the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
Shane Kelly, who has contested the event at the past four Olympic Games, was also surprised by the announcement. Kelly is a former world record holder and three-time world champion in the event and his Olympic record includes a kilo silver in Barcelona in 1992, bronze in Sydney in 2000 and a fourth place last year in Athens.
“It’s definitely a shock and very disappointing especially when you consider it is one of the most hotly contested events at the Olympic Games,” Kelly said. “In Athens four guys went under the Olympic record and the kilo is a great ‘edge of the seat’ event for the fans.”
Both events will remain in the programs for the Commonwealth Games and world championships.