Para-cyclists prepare for key qualifier at Worlds

Los Angeles velodrome hosts first major para-cycling event

The 2012 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships begins today with athletes, who are aiming for success at the Paralympic Games in London this summer, using the event as vital preparation.

Taking place at the Velo Sports Center at in Carson, California the championships run from February 9 through to the 12th. It will feature more than 200 athletes from 33 countries. Besides having an opportunity to earn world champion status in their events, athletes will also be competing for UCI points which impact the overall number of team slots awarded to each country for the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

"This will be a fierce competition between the world's top Paralympic cyclists as the race tightens to qualify for the 2012 London Paralympic Games," said USOC chief of Paralympics Charlie Huebner.

The U.S. team will feature California natives Matt Bigos, Will Chesebro, Vincent Juarez, and Anthony Zahn. Respective 2011 world championships gold and silver medalists Allison Jones and Greta Neimanas will compete in the women's division.

Tandem duos Clark Rachfal and pilot Dave Swanson, Army veteran Chester Triplett and pilot Pete Billington, and Karissa Whitsell and pilot Lisa Turnbull will compete in the visually impaired divisions.

U.S. Paralympics and the Velo Sports Center have teamed up to run the competition. The facility, which opened in 2004, has hosted numerous international and elite events, including the 2005 UCI Elite Track Cycling World Championships.

The 2012 championship marks the first time since 1998 - and just the second time ever - that the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships will be held in the United States. The 2011 UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships was held March 11-13 in Montichiari, Italy, and Team USA finished fifth in the overall medal count with six total medals

Attendance for all days of the event is free.

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