Status for reigning Olympic gold medalist Meares in doubt for Beijing Games


MELBOURNE, Australia -- Anna Meares, the world record holder and gold medalist in the 500-meter time trial at the 2004 Olympics, will miss this week's world track cycling championships, placing her Beijing Games status in doubt.

Meares is still recovering from a serious race accident she suffered during a World Cup meet in Los Angeles on Jan. 20.

Cycling Australia announced Monday its final team for the world titles which begin Wednesday in Manchester, England. Meares was replaced by Kaarle McCulloch in sprint events.

Given the complexity of the Olympic qualifying process, it is unclear how Meares' absence will affect her selection chances for Beijing and Australia's berth in the women's sprint at the Games.

The women's 500 time trial is no longer on the Olympic program, meaning that Meares would have to attempt to qualify in other sprint events for Beijing.

Meares fractured neck vertebrae, dislocated a shoulder and tore neck muscles and shoulder tendons when she crashed during the Los Angeles race.

It forced her out of the Australian trials and other World Cup meets, and she could need an exemption from world cycling's governing body, UCI, if she is to compete at Beijing.

The UCI can award wild cards to riders, but only if a pre-qualified cyclist withdraws from the Olympics.