Here’s the first of our semi-random round-up of how the Olympic track competition is being covered around the World.
Unsurprisingly, it was the controversy in the Team Sprint competition that dominated the news pages this morning. Depending on the anglo-centricity of the audience – pro-, anti- or indifferent – it was the exclusion of Great Britain’s Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton or China’s Jinjie Gong and Shuang Guo that made the headlines. Oddly, few sites put two and two together and realised that the two teams that broke the World Record – and, quite clearly, the best two teams in the competition – were both excluded.
The New York Times took the GB angle – at least in the headline and opening paragraphs – observing that the ‘sour-and-sweet opening session’ left David Cameron with one win to cheer. trackcycling’s old friend Enrico Carpani – UCI media manager – was left to defend the chaos, telling the Times that “I realize it may be difficult to accept for the British public and for the Chinese, with two world records, but these were perfectly clear decisions,” Carpani said. “I have seen the video.” Enrico gets all the tough jobs but, unfortunately, he’s right.
The riders were philosophical, too – Chinese sprint legen Shuang Guo accepted the decision, “We understand that in international races, there are all sorts of possibilities that can happen,” she said through an interpreter. “Now we face the reality, and we accept it. I think today’s events will probably be a motivating force for the races after today.”
The Washington Post reflected on both the Chinese and British disappointment, opening with ‘Guo Shuang and Victoria Pendleton won’t have long to think about the disqualifications that cost them a chance at Olympic gold medals: They’ve got to race again.’ Indeed they have. Spare a thought, though, for Jess Varnish and Jinjie Gong, whose Olympics is over. The usually bubbly German duo of Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel were clearly delighted, but not to the degree they were in Melbourne in April. Welte told the Post “It wasn’t the way we wanted to win because the Chinese girls had been fantastic”.
It didn’t seem to affect the Men’s Team Sprint team – at least in terms of their performance – with Philip Hindes telling the Post “It was really bad for the girls. It was really bad to see they got disqualified because they were really fast as well,” Hindes said. “Just before we went up, it was quite a hit, really, but then you’ve got to get straight focused again and do your own thing.”
Hindes’ ‘own thing’ involved seemingly confessing to deliberately crashing his bike after what he felt was a poor start – although in the post-race press conference British Cycling put that down to Hindes’ relatively poor English – having come over to the GB programme three years ago from Germany where he raced as a Junior.
In typically sympathetic style, the ever sporting Sydney Morning Herald celebrates Australia’s inherited Bronze and observed that ‘Pendleton was mortified, the one-eyed crowd booed loudly – but the chief judge’s decision was final’, conveniently forgetting the ‘sporting’ crowd in Melbourne that had booed every British rider – bar Sir Chris Hoy – and had deliberately put Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton off with a moronic cry of ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie – Oi – Oi – Oi’ during the traditionally silent countdown to the start of the Team Sprint. ‘It was hard to take but Britain also accepted that Pendleton, in front of an audience containing a rollcall of royals, had stuffed up royally’. Nice.
The report on the Men’s Team Sprint was rather more balanced ‘Hindes had crashed at their first attempt to qualify fastest was impressive enough. That they belted out a world record in their next round and again in sealing the gold medal against France, who clocked 43.013s was remarkable’.
And British coverage, unsurprisingly, concentrated on the success story – The Daily Telegraph fairly typical in reporting Sir Chris Hoy’s victory as though he was a one man team and concentrating as much on the fact that he – like Bradley Wiggins two days earlier – had overtaken Sir Steve Redgrave in the GB all time medals table. They had a plausible explanation for Hindes’ Qualifying round mishap – even if it wasn’t the one he gave in his post-race interview – ‘He appeared to have caught his overshoe in the chain, which meant GB were allowed a restart under International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations’. Yes. Sort of…