LONDON (AFP) — Germany’s Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel were crowned Olympic women’s team sprint champion in controversial fashion following the relegation of event winner China on Thursday.
Guo Shuang and Gong Jinjie had combined to claim the first Olympic gold in the women’s team sprint, the first ever Olympic cycling title for China, only to be relegated soon after for an infringement.
It means China was relegated to the silver medal position, with Australia, who beat Ukraine in the battle for third place, winning the bronze.
“We really could not believe it when we saw it on the screen that we were Olympic champions,” said Vogel. “It’s amazing. It’s weird and amazing.”
“We couldn’t believe it when the Chinese girls were relegated, just like the GB girls, I was thinking, ‘what’s going on here?’” said Welte. “I still can’t believe it, but it feels very good to be the Olympic champions!”
Organizers have yet to make an official announcement, although replays of the final appeared to show the Chinese performing an irregular changeover. They were not the only pair to fall foul of the rules as the women’s event event made its Olympic debut.
Earlier, Olympic and six-time world sprint champion Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish (Great Britain) were relegated from the first round for an “irregular change”. Pendleton and Varnish were the first to beat Welte and Vogel’s world record of 0:32.549, set by the German pair last April, but they were relegated from the first round after qualifying for the gold medal match with China.
The setback ended Pendleton’s bid for three gold medals at the Games, in which she is also competing in the sprint and keirin.
“It’s just one of those things that happened. We were probably just a bit too eager and excited for a ride,” said a distraught Pendleton. “Now and again rubbish things happen and this is one of those. The only positive I can take is I know I’m in good form.”
Guo, China’s main hope for gold in the sprint and keirin, and Gong looked devastated on hearing the news of their relegation. However, they returned to the podium for the medal ceremony, smiling as they collected their silvers.
The pair had earlier underlined their gold medal credentials by twice setting a new world record for the two-lap power event in 0:32.447 and 0:32.442.
“It’s pretty damn good. We came here with gold in our eyes, and we got bronze,” said Australia’s Kaarle McCulloch. “It’s my first Olympic Games and I couldn’t be happier.”
Australian Anna Meares, who is regarded as Pendleton’s biggest challenger in the sprint and keirin events, posted the fastest opening lap in the first round only for McCulloch to perform short of expectations.
“You can’t go down that path. That’s what we had, that’s what we did, that’s what we got,” said Meares. “We probably benefited a little bit from the British being disqualified. I can only imagine how devastating that was for them. It was bittersweet for Kaarle and I.
“I am so proud of Kaarle because this is her first Games. She is under a lot of pressure and to pick up a bronze in her first event, I was really pleased I was out there with her.”