Olympic and Commonwealth Games Champion, Anna Meares, today broke her own World Record for the 500m time trial in the morning session of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome today.
The 23 year old Queenslander posted a time of 33.944 sec to take eight thousandths off the mark she set to win gold at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
Her time is considered exceptional under the circumstances, as the temperature inside the velodrome and humidity was not conducive to fast times. The fastest time in the men's 4km teams pursuit, also held during the morning sessions, was 4.07.468 - set by Russia and including former world champion Mikhail Igantiev - was some 11 secons off world record time.
Meares came into the Sydney World Cup with what she and Australia's head coach, Martin Barras, described as her best form since Athens, but both were nonetheless stunned by the performance, as was the reigning world champion, Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus who rode against her in the final.
It was a strong effort from the rider who last year was in tears after being told a back injury might end her career. But earlier in the week, Meares was predicting that she could threaten her own world record as she was finding her racing legs again after a good break from training and racing.
"I thought it was possible, simply because this season I've had an uninterrupted preparation and the back injury has just gone," said Meares, who despite the pain of torn and bulging discs in her back and an amended training program, still achieved gold in the event at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and then claimed silver at the World Championships in Bordeaux, France in April this year.
After the World Championships she married childhood sweetheart, Mark Chadwick, and after the wedding took a two-month break before getting back on her bike to prepare for the Sydney World Cup.
"Things have been stepping up slowly each week, times were improving and power was improving and I thought if I could ride a 34.5 I would have been really ecstatic with that," said Meares. "And when I looked up, I saw Natalia's (Tsylnskaya) time first and I thought, 'Nice time', and then mine was flashing and it caught my eye ... 'What the ... Oh my God' ... I won't say what I thought."
The record was even more impressive considering it was only 24 degrees celsius and 48 percent humidity and her Athens time was set in 40 plus degrees and higher humidity. Meares also admitted she felt she 'was grovelling' rather than 'sizzling' before realising she was almost a second faster than the next best finalist.
"My husband (a child-care supervisor) is in the crowd and his parents, and it's so meaningful that they could watch something like that."
Leading into the event Meares had set new records in power output in training, a sign of something special to come. "I've never broken a particular amount of wattage before in my career and in the last couple of weeks I PB'd that by 150 watts and that's a really big jump," she said.
"Marv' (Barras) thought it was wrong and he went to double-check and brought all the sports scientists in to double check and couldn't find anything wrong with it.
"It doesn't seem right because I've only had six months of preparation and Athens was 12, so it kind of makes me feel happy knowing I've got 18 months to Beijing (Olympics in 2008)."
The Sydney World Cup is the first of the four round series and kicks off the the season which has Meares believing she can lower the mark again at the world championships in March next year in Spain.
IOC & UCI combine to stop event
But unfortunately for Meares she will not be able to defend her Olympic crown in Beijing after the world governing body, the UCI (International Cycling Union) dropped it and the men's kilometre time trial from the Olympic track program.
"I'm somewhere between mad and distraught with that decision," she said. "And I'm not mad at BMX (which has been added to the cycling program), I'm mad that one sport has to suffer for the benefit of another. All sports should be equal, men and women.
"I wrote to the UCI president and said that by taking one of the two events we have as women sprinters it essentially cut the highlight of our career in half. We don't have the road like the endurance people have on track," said Meares. "We don't have six days and the keirin series that the male sprinters do, the Olympics is our pinnacle, and a lot of these younger women who are really good time-triallers don't have that forte any more to specialise in. I really hope they reconsider for London (2012)."
Meares will also have the opportunity to collect another gold medal in the evening session, as she will line up for Australia in the women's team sprint. Other medals to be decided included the women's individual pursuit, with the ride-off for gold to see Australian Katie Mactier ride against the Great Britain's Wendy Houvenhagel (riding for the 'Science in Sport' professional track team in Sydney).
Other events set down for the Saturday evening session at the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney include the final of the men's team pursuit, plus the men's points race.
(Full coverage will be provided on Cyclingnews as the evening progresses.)
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