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Australia’s reigning Olympic 500 meter time trial champion Anna Meares is celebrating after hearing she has qualified for the sprint event in Beijing.
Australia’s sole women’s sprint spot at the Games was under threat because of Meares’ place in the world rankings, but results from the world championships in Manchester, England, on Friday mean she can no longer be overtaken.
Meares is absent from the world championships as she recovers from injuries sustained in a serious crash at the Los Angeles round of the World Cup in January.
But she watched with joy from home in Adelaide as the respective results of Russian Svetlana Grankovskaya and Lulu Zheng of China virtually handed the Australian her Olympic sprint ticket.
“I’ve been up all night; I couldn’t sleep anyway so I thought I may as well sit up and watch and wait,” Meares told her team in a phone call. “‘Grannie’ (Svetlana Grankowskaja) rode a 10.2 (second qualifier) and I thought she’s on form and I’m in trouble but then she got put out in the first round and I was thanking my lucky stars.
“After Lulu was beaten in the second round I thought great that’s one race down, and then in repechage (Christin) Muche was my favorite but then when they started riding two abreast pretty quick from the get go I thought Yvonne (Hijgenaar) ‘what are you doing?’
“I just wanted to close my eyes and not watch but watch at the same time.
That last lap, when Yvonne pulled out a little bit extra to hold off Lulu, I felt so happy.”
With the 500 meters event now no longer part of the Olympics, Meares is ecstatic about being given the chance to go for sprint gold, especially as she won bronze in 2004.
“I held back from screaming, but the tears have been flowing,” added Meares, who has only began training again in recent weeks.
“It’s been a really hard week, lack of sleep, stress to the point where my hair’s falling out and I’m constantly in Manchester mentally thinking this is what they’re doing at this minute, this is how we’re preparing for this race.
“But now I can concentrate on preparing for the Olympics – it’s fantastic news.”