The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) ratification of radical changes to the Olympic Games track programme has received a mixed response from national federations and riders alike. Decisions that create winners and losers within the same sport is likely always going to receive a mixed response, which is exactly what arrived from the cycling industry following yesterday’s IOC meeting.
British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford praised the IOC’s changes, which eliminate the individual pursuit, points race and Madison.
"The issue of gender inequality within the Olympic track cycling events needed to be resolved and in that regard, I think the IOC move is to be applauded,” said Brailsford. “The detail of how the parity could be achieved was by adding or removing events and there were always going to be winners and losers.
“It's a shame to have lost great events such as the Individual pursuit, points and madison, however I believe the UCI have been very creative to include the omnium within which the individual pursuit and the points race will still figure," he added.
The decision is a double-edged sword for Brailsford, as it is for many of this colleagues at other national federations. While male and female track athletes will contend for an equal number of medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Brailsford’s individual pursuit champions Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero will not be able to defend their respective Olympic titles on home turf.
"There didn't need to be such a massive overhaul," Romero told Radio 5 Live. "This is a massive overhaul of the Olympic track programme which will have massive consequences for the sport.
A world away in New Zealand BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott is wrestling with the same conundrum. Three of the nation’s five Olympic track medals have come from the individual pursuit, and in Alison Shanks the nation also has the reigning International Cycling Union (UCI) World Champion.
“It’s disappointing from the viewpoint of endurance track that the blue ribbon event of individual pursuit has gone along with the points race and Madison,” said Elliott. “That said the even gender split is commendable and BikeNZ is well placed in regards to the women’s team pursuit with our team picking up the silver medal at the world championships this year. Our power to podium programme has identified a group of talented women and we have been developing them for a year now.
“It’s a disappointment for Alison Shanks as the reigning world champion, but let’s remember that we still have the world championships in all of these disciplines every year,” he said. “And for us to have a successful teams pursuit programme we must have world class individual pursuit riders. The focus for us now will be to have balance across world championship outcomes and our Olympic outcomes."
Like Australia, New Zealand is both a winner and a loser from the IOC’s decision, with both nations having good prospects in the axed programmes and the introduced omnium.
The Commonwealth nations have an added complication in that the changes made by the IOC don’t impact the Commonwealth Games, which will be staged in India next year. Commonwealth countries will have added motivation to continue track programs in the culled areas to ensure success at the Commonwealth Games events.
Tweet all about it
Here’s what track riders – past and present – had to say on their Twitter.com accounts.
Chris Boardman: Individual Pursuit out of the Olympics....booooo. My World record might stand forever...yeeeea!
Taylor Phinney: Well family, it seems that we have been unsuccessful in our fight. I dearly appreciate all your support! We now move on.
Greg Henderson: It is a shame, in my opinion, that track endurance is ruined now in future Olympics.
Jesse Sergent: Today is a sad day for endurance track cycling.