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Anna Meares books ticket to Beijing

Sprint ace smashes qualifying target with track record time

Revolution 3, Vodafone Arena, Melbourne

Athens Olympic gold medallist Anna Meares has confirmed her place in the Beijing Games with a stunning flying 200m at Vodafone Arena in Melbourne last week.  

Five months after a horror crash that left Meares with a fractured C2 vertebra in her neck and severe shoulder injuries that threatened to end her Beijing aspirations, Meares demonstrated that she is back in Olympic medal contention.  

Pre-nominated for the Australian team, Meares needed to ride quicker than 11.77 seconds for the flying 200m to secure her Games berth. The 24-year-old smashed through the barrier, stopping the clock at 11.189, just outside her lifetime best of 11.170.  

Meares was “surprised” and Cycling Australia head track coach Martin Barras left “suitably impressed” after both said they would have been happy with a time around 11.4 or 11.5 seconds.

The effort surpassed the track record of 11.275 set by England’s Victoria Pendleton at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and sends the dual world champion and favourite for the Olympic sprint in Beijing a warning that Meares is back to her best after the crash at the Los Angeles World Cup in January.

Pendleton edged out Meares for the Commonwealth Games sprint gold at Vodafone in 2006 and Meares was pleased to know that she had put her rivals on notice.

I have surprised myself in the fact that just how quick it was,” Meares said.

“[It’s] A thank god feeling, it’s really been uncertain the last five months.  Going, not going, prove to the selectors I’m good enough; prove to myself I’m good enough.  

I would have been happy with 11.4 or 11.5. My PB was done on Manchester which is the fastest track in the world.  

The pain and the discomfort that I’ve been through for the past couple of months and all the hard work that I’ve put in has started to pay off.

It gives me a lot more confidence in the fact that I’ll be in good enough condition to compete and I’ve always had the mentality that I will go in believing I can win and now I really have the backing behind me having done that time.

Meares, who won the 500m time trial in Athens, has been forced to turn her attention to the sprint in Beijing after the time trial was scrapped to allow BMX into the Games.  After a slow build up following her return to training she was set the flying sprint by Barras and his fellow selectors, with Barras not expecting such a slick time first up.

I can say honestly no, I thought 11.4 or 11.5 genuinely.  But then again its Anna Meares we’re talking about so she’s always get something special in reserve.

I’m suitably impressed.  That seals the question without any arguments but more importantly with regards to her Olympic campaign she’s smack back in the middle of it,” Barras said.

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