Thursday, February 9, 2012

IRELAND. GOLD. Day One at Para-Cycling Worlds...

Depending on who you are and where you are from, that could be the story of the day from the Los Angeles Velodrome. The truth, of course, is that there were numerous similar stories - Seven gold medals were awarded on this first day, and three world records set. The first part of the program was the women's 500 meter time trial for the C-1 through C-5 categories. The three world records came from the women in these races. The first of these records was set by Yin He, of China, with a time of 43.843 in the women's C-2 race; the very next racer, Alijda Norbruis of the Netherlands, reset the record with a time of 43.101. Later, Ruan Jianping, of China, set a new world record in the C-4 category with a time of 38.974.

Thing about international competitions such as this weekends World Championships, there is more pageantry, more excitement - these are the world's top athletes in their respective fields after all. The afternoon started with the parade of flags; thirty-one nations are represented at these championships, so thirty-one flags circled the oval, held proudly aloft by kids from the track program at the Los Angeles Velodrome. A few of the nations were especially enthusiastic when they were announced, and a significant number of British fans in the stands made their presence known as well. There were a few short speeches - one in particular deserves notice. A representative from Samsung announced that the company would be sponsoring a new program at the velodrome which will introduce vision-impaired youth in the Los Angeles area to cycling. Way to step up Samsung.

Laura Sobchik

Raquel Acinas (Spain)

Denise Schindler (Germany)

Sue Powell (Australia)

Greta Neimanas

Sarah Storey (Great Britain) won with a time of 37.371

Storey (1st), Neimanas (2nd), Jennifer Schubel (3rd)

While the individual time trials were exciting in their way, as the announcer marked the time gap advantages and deficits of each successive rider as they circled the boards. But, where things really got exciting were the tandem pursuit races at the end of the day. For those of you who are not familiar, in pursuit races, racers (in this case tandems) starting on opposite sides of the track pursue one another for a set distance (in this case three kilometers). Whichever pair has the advantage after that distance wins. If one tandem is able to catch the other before the three km mark is reached, the race is over. The women's races were brilliant enough, being won by the Irish pair, Catherine Walsh and Francine Meehan (pilot). The British tandem (Aileen McGlynn and Helen Scott) claimed the silver medal, while the New Zealand duo (Phillipa Gray and Laura Thompson) captured the bronze. The two mens races were especially exciting; first up was the bronze medal race, pitting Canada against Spain. Canada was just too dominant and was able to catch the Spanish riders before 3km were raced. The big event was the race for gold - Australia vs. Ireland, the two tandems projected to meet again at the Para-Olympics later this year (although the way the Canadian pair rode, I wouldn't put it past them to upset those plans). Anyway, Australia (Bryce Lindores and Scott McFee) got out quick, but then Ireland (James Brown and Damien Shaw) came back and looked like they might be able to push for the win. Australia surged during the last few laps though, for a magnificent win. If this days competition was any indication of what is to come over the next three days, you will not want to miss out. Get yourself down to the velodrome.

Gray and Thompson of New Zealand

Walsh and Meehan

Link to the slideshow of all photos here.

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