Athens 2004 - Track Events
Friday 20th August 2004
There are not enough superlatives! Anna Meares has won the Olympic Games 500m time trial on the track in absolutely superb style. She is now the youngest rider to take the title at the event and to top that, she knew before she started that she would have to break the Olympic Record to win.
Meares did better than that, she broke the World Record. Her time - 33.952 seconds makes her the first woman to beat 34 seconds.
Starting last, the pressure was on the 2004 World Champion. Times had been fast throughout the event and the last three riders raised the stakes considerably. The time of Jiang from China meant that Meares would have to break the Olympic record time which Jiang had just set and that she also have to ride a personal best.
Starting third last, Belarussian, Natallia Tsylinkskaya assured herself of a medal by going fastest so far with 34.167seconds. Next up was the (now) former World Record holder, Yonghua Jiang. She flew - taking a new Olympic Record with her time of 34.112. So, it was left to Meares to take the track and 'shoulder' the pressure as she waited to start.
Her start was good and her first lap was also the fastest recorded on this hot afternoon in the velodrome. As she finished her second lap, coach Barras held his arms aloft, the index finger of each hand pointing skywards. As she realised what she'd done, Meares gulped for breath and raised her hand to her face. She took a victory lap, rode around to the back straight and shook hands with the Australian contingent in the stands, before taking another lap with an Australian flag held high above her head.
2004 has been so special for this Queenslander. World Champion, Olympic Champion, World Record and Olympic Record holder.
1st Anna Meares , Aus 33.952
2nd Youngua Jiang, Chn 34.112
3rd Natallia Tsylinkskaya Blr 34.176
Click to enlarge the images below
The only women's event today is the 500m time trial.
Against the clock and ridden individually, this event is 2 laps of the track, from a "standing start". Riders usually ride bikes with aero bars and wear aerodynamically shaped helmets. They will explode out of the starting gate and then power their chosen gear for the first bend, sitting down in the second. The ride is done as close to the bottom of the track for the event.
Current favourites must include the World Champion, Anna Meares, the World Record Holder from China and silver medallist in 2004, Yonghua Jiang. Also a danger will be the previous World Champion, Natallia Tsylinskaya.
There are others who threaten the medallists - those who have been improving, or showing good results over the past 18 months : Briton, Victoria Pendleton and Dutch rider, Yvonne Hijgenaar are notable examples. Lori-Ann Menuzer - the powerful Canadian is also a possibly. With only 12 on the start list, this event will be over very quickly in many ways!
A factor for all riders could be the heat and if not the heat, the 'open' sides of the velodrome roof may cause a headwind in what is otherwise considered an indoor stadium.
World Record : 34.00 Yonghua Jiang (China) (2002)
Olympic Record : 34.14 Felicia Ballnger (France) (2000 - Sydney)
Official results - courtesy of Athens2004.com
Anna Meares had been working on the mental race as well as the physical race at the Australian team's camp in Germany. She and coach, Martin Barras, had been rehearsing starting last with a time to beat of 34.1seconds. She said that when it came to the reality that the situation was fine because she was "quite comfortable with that".
Meares also admitted that she had taken a lot of confidence from her win in the World Championships - after all this 500m TT was the same race, the same competition, just a different venue.
Here's what else she said :
"All the credit goes to my coach and my team. It's something that young people in Australia will want to achieve in the future."
"I was looking for a personal best time. I never dreamed of breaking the world record. I had a great time."
Chinese runner-up, Youngha Jiang was pleased with her performance, in this, her second time around as an international competitor. She retired from the sport in 1997, only to start racing again in 1999. She said that she returned because she loves the sport. She admitted to having some problems with technique in the 500m TT and vowed to go away and work on them. She was, however pleased with her performance, the fact that she had broken the Olympic Record (albeit temporarily) and the fact that she had come so close to her own World Record (as it stood when she rode).
Of Anna Meares, she said : "Anna Meares is a very fast and very talented girl. To lose the record is a pity, but I am satisfied with my ride."
This was an opinion mirrored by bronze medallist, Natallia Tsylinkskaya, who said that "
is a great cyclist, she had very good legs."
"She had very good performance. I believe that she deserved the gold, congratulations to her".
As for celebrations, Meares is going to wait until the end of the week. She has one day of rest, then enters the sprint competition. She is looking forward to the sprint - specifically to playing out tactics - she has been learning from one of the kings of the sport - Sean Eadie. Of those sessions, she said "we had fun in training...."
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