Meares misses Worlds sprint medals but eyes Olympic selection

Final four for veteran in individual sprint

Australian Stephanie Morton might have qualified fastest in the individual sprint at the UCI Track World Championships in London, but it was veteran Anna Meares who advanced the farthest, making the bronze medal round where she lost to Germany's Kristina Vogel.

For Meares, the result was a good indicator for the Olympic Games in Rio, but although she is the defending Olympic champion in the sprint, having taken an emotional victory in London over Victoria Pendleton, she knows it will be a close call for selection between her, Morton, and Kaarle McCulloch.

"It is tit for tat between all of us," Meares said. "For me personally as much as it is really trying, it is very good because of the competitive side of it I have to work really hard, I don't get anything easy."

Meares teamed up with Morton for the team sprint, taking fourth, then rebounded to capture silver in the keirin, and thinks that might tip the balance in her favour for Rio.

"Like I said after the keirin, I didn't know I got a team sprint start until the day before the event, so from my perspective out of this competition to get two fourths and a silver bodes really well in my case for selection for Rio. But we'll have to wait and see what the selectors think," she said.

After London, Meares took a step back to recover, and build steadily toward Rio with a world title last year in the keirin. But back problems have plagued her this season, and have kept her from being her best in the individual sprints. Making the finals was progress and showed she is approaching her old form.

"I'm really quite pleased," Meares said. "For me getting into the final four of the sprint was a huge step, a really huge step for my confidence, for my self belief, for just getting that feeling back again."

The Australians had three riders in the sprint competition - Kaarle McCulloch lost out to Kate O'Brien (Canada) in the first round of head-to-head sprints, while Meares ousted her old rival Jinjie Gong (China) and Morton handily defeated Daniela Gaxiola Gonzalez Luz (Mexico).

But Meares fell to Vogel in the 1/8 final and had to go to repechage, where she beat Virginie Cueff (France) - setting up a Meares vs. Morton quarterfinal round. It was a vicious battle, with Meares taking the first round, and Morton pushing it to the decider with a hard fought second sprint.

"I'm really pleased I was able to overcome Steph in the quarterfinal, that was a really hard race, in terms of the physical, technical and tactical side of it but also racing you teammate, that's always really hard," said Meares.

"I can imagine for Steph it might be a little frustrating because I do in some ways create a shadow for her but she is an incredible athlete in her own right and I really hope the media and the people who follow this sport give her that respect because she is going to be great.

"I've only been able to overcome Steph in the individual sprint the past two times we've met. Ever since she won the Commonwealth Games in 2014 she has had the upper hand so I don't think it's reflective of me being a better rider I think it's just reflective of where we are in our training phase and unfortunately where we qualified."

It was then China's Lin Junhong's chance to beat the 2011 triple world champion and Meares knew she would have her work cut out for her. "Went I got into the semis I knew I was going to be struggling with my speed a little bit because the other girls in qualifying showed much better top end speed so I just had to be a bit craftier in how I was racing and actually had a lot of fun doing it."

Vogel then repeated her two for two defeat of Meares to claim the final medal behind Tianshi Zhong and Junhong.

The selection for the Olympic Games will not be announced until July.

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