Olga Panarina from Belarus claimed the first gold medal of the 2011 UCI Track World Championships, taking the women's 500m time trial title by just 23 hundredths of a second over Sandie Claire of France.
Only 13 riders started the event, which was axed from the Olympic programme after the Athens Games in 2004. The discipline's slow decline was exacerbated by the focus on the new Olympic events for women in 2012, the keirin and team sprint, which were added to the individual sprint event to bring the women's racing on par with the men's.
Most of the favourites in the women's sprint field have thus abandoned the 500, including 2004 Olympic and defending world champion Anna Meares, world record holder Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania), Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Chinese sprinter Shuang Guo.
Their absence opened the door for Panarina, Claire and bronze medalist Miriam Welte to step into the spotlight on opening night.
In the slow conditions at the Apeldoorn velodrome in the Netherlands, Panarina's time, a 33.896, was impressive at just six tenths of a second from Krupeckaite's record mark (33.296). It was just enough to knock Claire (33.919) from the leader's chair.
"I came to win and I'm disappointed," said Claire, the reigning European champion. "I wanted success, especially since all the favourites were not present. But Panarina rode a very good race, put in a nice time. Kudos to her ... "
German Miriam Welte's emotions were on the other end of the spectrum - the 24-year-old was happy to get the bronze with her 34.496 second performance.
"I'm pretty happy - I thought when I saw the start list yesterday that maybe I could get third. A medal is always good," said Welte, but also indicated she would be joining her fellow sprinters on the sideline during the 500 at the 2012 worlds. "I don't think I will do the 500 next year because I'm focused on the team sprint which is much more important for the Olympics. We hope to get a medal there."
Great Britain's Rebecca James set the early fast time with a 35.035, but was soon knocked down the rungs by Lisandra Guerra (Cuba) and Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong.
Dutch rider Willy Kanis gave the home crowd a thrill by taking the new best time in 34.657, but it was not enough to give the host nation, the Netherlands, its first medal of the competition. Welte, Claire and then Panarina edged Kanis from the dais.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Olga Panarina (Belarus)||0:00:33.896|
|2||Sandie Clair (France)||0:00:00.023|
|3||Miriam Welte (Germany)||0:00:00.600|
|4||Willy Kanis (Netherlands)||0:00:00.761|
|5||Wai Sze Lee (Hong Kong, China)||0:00:00.814|
|6||Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez (Cuba)||0:00:00.826|
|7||Rebecca Angharad James (Great Britain)||0:00:01.139|
|8||Olga Streltsova (Russian Federation)||0:00:01.831|
|9||Won Gyeong Kim (Korea)||0:00:02.224|
|10||Fatehah Mustapa (Malaysia)||0:00:02.562|
|11||Angeliki Koutsonikoli (Greece)||0:00:02.856|
|12||Ryoko Nakagawa (Japan)||0:00:03.764|
|13||Luz Daniela Gaxiola Gonzalez (Mexico)||0:00:04.546|
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