China's Jinjie Gong and Tianshi Zhong compete in the Women's team sprint qualification during the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London on March 2, 2016China's Jinjie Gong and Tianshi Zhong compete in the Women's team sprint qualification during the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London on March 2, 2016 (AFP Photo/Eric Feferberg)
London (AFP) - China’s women were disqualified from the team sprint final on the opening night of the world championships on Wednesday, a decision that so incensed their French coach Benoit Vetu that he suffered a suspected broken hand hitting a table in anger.
The team of Jinjie Gong and Tianshi Zhong had appeared to have successfully defended their world title in emphatic fashion against Russia only to be relegated for an illegal change.
"It is the rules but the rules are bad,” said Vetu, his right hand in a cast, before leaving London’s Lee Valley VeloPark for x-rays. “It was a millimetre too early, that is all. One millimetre.”
After their relegation, the Russian duo of Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova were declared world champions.
Earlier in the day, during qualifying, hosts Great Britain, needing to place two nations between them and France to earn the last place for the Olympics, could only come fifth meaning the seventh-placed French claimed the spot for Rio.
Home rider Katy Marchant launched a blistering tirade against British Cycling coaching staff for experimenting with different teams in qualification events.
“There is a lot of frustration, disappointment, disappointed in the organisation,” she said.
“We’re in this position through decisions of other people, not through any fault of our own.”
The Germans came from behind to beat Australia, featuring Olympic legend Anna Meares and Stephanie Morton, by just over one-tenth of a second in a close race for the bronze medal in the women’s team sprint.
Meanwhile, for the fourth successive year, New Zealand’s men were the fastest team sprint squad in qualifying, but improved on last year’s silver medal by beating the Netherlands for gold.
The team of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Ed Dawkins were too powerful for the Dutch in the closing stages after trailing earlier in the three-lap event, a victory that will make the Kiwis favourites for gold at this summer’s Olympics.
“We’re going to Rio for the same reason we came here,” said Webster. “We’d only come here if we thought we could win. We’ve drawn a line in the sand but, to be honest, that’s all it is.
“You can go on about 'favourites’ but it’s all about whoever lines up in August and whoever does the fastest three sprints in 90 minutes. The demands are different to here and we’ve got a few things we’ve been working on to prepare for those demands.”
Reigning world champions France, featuring Gregory Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Michael D’Almeida, could only finish fourth, losing the bronze medal race to Germany.
In the women’s team pursuit, Australia’s Rebecca Wiasak won the first world title of the 2016 Championships when she successfully defended her individual pursuit title convincingly.
Against Poland’s Malgorzata Wojtyra, the 31-year-old Wiasak almost caught her rival over the closing lap before coasting to a victory even more comfortable than her dominant qualifying performance.
“I thought this morning about this being the first rainbow jersey of the day and you picture yourself up there in it,” said Wiasak.
“As defending champion, I felt a little bit of pressure but my Australian team mates in the team pursuit all really backed me and I was confident because of the way we all prepared for this competition.”
A late break by Sebastian Mora Vedri was sufficient to win an exciting men’s scratch race which featured multiple attacks before the Spaniard coasted to solo victory.
In a bunch sprint behind him, Ignacio Prado of Mexico rode strongly to take silver with Switzerland’s Claudio Imhof winning bronze with a late lunge for the line ahead of Raman Ramanau from Belarus.
In qualifying for the men’s team pursuit, the host nation qualified fastest after a strong performance from 35-year-old former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins who led Britain to a time of 3 minutes 55.664 seconds.
Wiggins, who is seeking a fifth Olympic gold at his fifth Games in the team pursuit in Rio, helped the hosts finish ahead of Australia, defending champions New Zealand and Italy among the four teams who advance for round one and the medal rides.