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Track News: Meares may miss Olympic defense; Aussie Nationals

Australia’s Anna Meares, Olympic champion in the 500-meter sprint at the 2004 games in Athens, miss her chance to defend her title after suffering a crash at the Los Angeles round of the 2007-08 UCI World Cup.

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By Fred Dreier

Meares' injuries may keep her from riding in Beijing

Meares’ injuries may keep her from riding in Beijing

Photo: Agence France Presse (File Photo)

Australia’s Anna Meares, Olympic champion in the 500-meter sprint at the 2004 games in Athens, miss her chance to defend her title after suffering a crash at the Los Angeles round of the 2007-08 UCI World Cup.

The 24-year-old, who hails from Queensland, was injured in the finals of the women’s Keirin on January 20, the final night of the third round of the World Cup. In a race won by American Jennie Reed, Meares tumbled hard onto her back and neck before sliding into the protective netting surrounding the ADT Events Center Velodrome in Carson, Calfornia. She suffered a dislocated shoulder and a fractured C2 vertebra in the crash, and isn’t expected to recover for several months.

“Her ligaments and cartilage injuries are healing well, but obviously the timeline for this type of injury is a little longer,” Australian national coach Martin Barras told VeloNews. “Mid-March for a full recovery and therefore no possibility of removing the neck brace or riding a bike before then. This will be followed by a period of rehab for her neck.”

That means Meares will miss this week’s Australian national track championships, the February 15-17 World Cup finals in Ballerup, Denmark as well as the March 26-30 world track championships in Manchester, England. The missed races will put the Australian behind the ball in accumulating UCI points necessary to make the August 8-24 Olympics. She currently sits fourth in the World Cup points table, with the top-nine riders earning Olympic berths.

Meares’ Olympic chances now rest with the UCI — the sport’s governing body can award wild card slots to riders, however only if a pre-qualified cyclist withdraws from the Olympics.

“[The injury] has taken any control we had over the Olympic qualification process out of our hands,” Barras said. “We are now reliant on the performances of our opponents to allow her to qualify.”

Aussie Nationals kick off Without Mactier, Bates, Kersen
The 2008 Australian track cycling championships kicked off on Monday, February 4 at the Denc Gray Velodrome in Sydney. The event runs through Sunday, February 10.

Missing from the race is Melbourne’s Katie Mactier, who currently leads the World Cup in that event. The 33-year-old, who earned a silver medal in the pursuit at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, withdrew after learning she needed root-canal surgery to repair a tooth.

Mactier was a strong contender to earn the Aussie title in the 3000-meter Individual Pursuit, having taken victories at the opening two World Cup rounds, held in Beijing and Sydney. She sat out the third World Cup round, held February 17-20 in Los Angeles, but still holds a lead in the World Cup overall. Should she win the World Cup title, Mactier will earn an automatic spot for the 2008 Olympics.

Also sitting out from the Australian championships are talented sprinter Ben Kersen and reigning points race world champion Katherine Bates. Both withdrew due to illness.

2008 Australian National Track Championships (three of seven days)

Women’s 500m time trial
1. Kaarle McCulloch (New South Wales), 34.93
2. Kerrie Meares (Queensland), 35.47
3. Josephine Butler (Western Australia), 37.32
4. Laura McCaughey (Tasmania), 37.39
5. Esther Pugh-Uren (Victoria), 38.18

Women’s points race
1. Belinda Goss (Tasmania), 28 points
2. Tess Downing (Victoria), 21
3. Josephine Tomic (Western Australia), 15
4. Skye-Lee Armstrong (New South Wales), 14
5. Laura McCaughey (Tasmania), 11

Women 3000m Individual Pursuit
1. Josephine Tomic (Western Australia), 3:42.95
2. Tess Downing (Victoria), 3:51.73
4. Vicki Whitelaw (Australia Capital Territory), 3:48.49
4. Helen Kelly (Victoria), 3:49.73

Men’s 1000m
1. Joel Leonard (Victoria), 1:02.89
2. Jackson-Leigh Rathbone (New South Wales), 1:03.91
3. Steve Sansonetti (Victoria), 1:05.05
4. Adrian Sansonetti (Victoria), 1:06.11
5. Byron Davis (Queensland), 1:06.68

Men’s 4000m Individual Pursuit
1. Mark Jamieson (Tasmania), 4:25.4
2. Leigh Howard (Victoria), 4:27.92
3. Zakkari Dempster (Victoria), 4:27.5
4. Jack Bobridge (South Australia), 4:28.51

Women’s Team Sprint
1. Queensland (Kerrie Meares, Emily Rosemond), 34.79
2. New South Wales (Cassandra Kell, Kaarle McCulloch), 35.09
3. South Australia (Annette Edmondson, Stephanie Morton), 36.33
4. Western Australia (Josephine Butler, Teegan Morton), 36.56