has been an exciting day of racing at the Vodaphone Arena in
Melbourne today, Sunday. The scratch race was relatively quiet
until a crash with 5 laps to go took out two riders and then
another with 2 to go took out another two. The second crash was more
serious, with Australia's previous silver medallist in this event,
Rochelle Gilmore, taken off to hospital for precautionary X-rays
on a back injury, although later, unconfirmed
reports were of a broken collarbone. The race was won by Yoanka Gonzalez Perez from
Cuba in a sprint which saw her a good length ahead of Mandy
The 500m Time Trial saw Australian Anna
Meares take the honours from the current World Record holder from
China and deposing the defending Champion. It could not have been
more exciting, though as Meares rode her individual 2 laps
mid-starting order. She then had to wait for the others to finish
to know her finish position. Of the wait, she said "I
couldn't sit down but I couldn't stay on the rollers [which she
was using to warm down] because I thought I'd fall off. I didn't
want to look at the scoreboard but I knew from the crowd's reaction
that I had it." Meares then rode several victory laps,
flying an Australian flag and occasionally wiping away tears of
The scratch race saw Hanka Kupfernagel
try a couple of times to stretch the field and gain an
advantage. However, the bunch was in no mood to let anyone go
away. Other attempts were made by Clara Sanchez, 2004 Keirin
Champion and B Guerrero Mendez, bronze sprint medallist.
In-between-times, World Pursuit champion, Sarah Ulmer was in
evidence at the front, policing matters. Also working hard to
control the race, or to ensure that noone escaped who could not be
dealt with were Olga Slyusareva (RUS), closely guarded by
Australia's Rochelle Gilmore.
In fact, just before half-race
distance, when Kupfernagel went off the front, she was followed by
Rebecca Quinn, Slyusareva, her guard, Gilmore and Dutch rider,
Adrie Visser. Then, when Mexican Guerrero Mendez tried twice to
get away, Slyusareva and Gilmore were there to bring her back,
assisted by Kupfernagel.
After her initial efforts, Sarah
Ulmer sat comfortably at the back of the bunch. Although, she put
herself into the situation of having to avoid the fallers in the
crashes towards the end of the race.
The crash with 5 to go took out
Guerrero Mendez and Sung Eun Gu (KOR). The major
crash occurred with 2 to go on the North (MCG) bend of the
velodrome. A clash of shoulders between Spaniard Gemma Pascual
seemed to lose her balance, and Rochelle Gilmore (AUS) brought the
two down. Gilmore was very still at the bottom of the track and
was eventually stretchered off for X-rays at a local hospital.
The race continued and the
sprint for the medals showed Yoanka
Gonzalez Perez beat Mandy Poitras by a length. Olga
Slyusareva took her second medal of the Championships, a bronze to
go with her Gold Points Race medal.
Yoanka Gonzalez Perez was
humbled at the thought of her win. "Its a present direct
from God, I thank God for the result I achieved." This is
Cuba's first ever Gold medal at a World Championships. "I'm
still trying to comprehend it. We don't have a lot of competition
in Cuba unlike the Europeans. So to win is amazing."
Runner-up, Mandy Poitras
(Canada) had a better day today - having been lapped in the Points
race yesterday and finishing last. She clearly got out of the
right side of the bed today - "I feel pretty good now. I'm
really happy with a silver medal and am now looking forward to the
rest of the season and preparing for next year's World Cups."
(Her results this year ranked her 17th and 19th overall in the
Points and Scratch races.)
Official reports indicated that
Gilmore was taken to a local hospital for X-rays to a back injury.
Later this evening, reports (unconfirmed) were that Gilmore
suffered a broken collarbone.
The atmosphere in the full to capacity
Vodaphone Arena was electric as this competition progressed.
Starting mid-order, Anna Meares (AUS) recorded the fastest time so
far and then had to wait to see how the others would fare. The
others included defending World Champion Natallia Tsylinskaya
(BLR) and current World Record holder, Yonghua Jiang (China). With
three riders left, noone had yet beaten Meare's time. Record
holder Jiang thundered around the two laps, faster than Meares at
1/2 distance, but slowed to a second-best time. The crowd cheered
the fact that Meares would now at least get bronze. It was around
this time that Meares climbed off the rollers she had been
warming-down on and went to sit in the Australian pit along with
(injured) sister Kerry.
Nancy Contreras (Mexico) was next rider,
her first lap was only 6th best and her overall time gave her 7th
so far. This time the crowd cheered
the fact that Meares was assured at least silver. Last rider was Simona Krupeckaite.
There was a hush around the stadium as she started, then cheering
her on, as the crowd had generously done all week for
non-Australian riders. Her 1 lap time was slow, she continued to
the finish line and the Arena erupted - not for her, but for
Meares - the new World Champion.
The celebrations were terrific.
In the Australian pit, Meares hugged Meares - shown to all on the
massive playback screens at either end of the Arena. Meares then
got onto her bike and rode several victory laps. She was clearly
very moved by her victory, wiping away tears occasionally as she
rode around. She completed a lap hands-free, holding an Australian
flag aloft before pulling it to her face and kissing it. She then
draped it around her shoulders and rode another lap to the crowd,
who were still on their feet.
When it came to the medal
ceremony, Meares was still easily moved to emotion. Again, she had
to wipe away tears as she saw the Australian flag rise to the
National Anthem. Meares is just 21 years old in 2004. Her
experience and maturity on the track as she rides belies this. It
is touching that she showed such emotion as a reaction to her
first Worlds win........... Her comments about her win were full
of praise for her coach, Ian McKenzie and excitement for the
"Its been an unbelievable
experience. I just want to thank everybody. A lot of credit must
go to my coach Ian. I've worked really hard. Its always great to
see results. I probably expected it to happen in another one to
two years but to happen now is surreal."