ATHENS, Greece -- Complaints about the Olympic velodrome
were piling high, with riders concerned that wind, dust and heat
would slow down times.
Turns out, the fretting was unfounded.
Australia's Anna Meares set a world record and Britain's Chris
Hoy followed with an Olympic-record ride in time trials during the
first track cycling session Friday. Both gold medalists also won
world titles earlier this year.
"I wasn't even looking at a world record, to tell you the
truth, when I came here,'' said Meares, who finished two laps in
33.952 seconds, 0.048 faster than the previous mark.
No U.S. riders were in Friday's races. American cyclists will
debut on the track Saturday, with returning Olympian Erin Mirabella
in the 3,000-meter pursuit qualifying and the men's sprint team of
Adam Duvendeck, Giddeon Massie and Christian Stahl opposing Greece
in another qualifier.
They better be sharp because Friday's times were swift.
Seven riders set records, with some of the marks lasting only
seconds until getting broken again. That's a good indication
there's no problem with the unique design of the velodrome, which
has a roof but no walls. Instead, giant drapes shield one side of
the eclipse-shaped structure.
"The times were just phenomenal,'' Hoy said.
The first record came in the first event, when Britain's Bradley
Wiggins finished the men's 4,000-meter individual pursuit
qualifying in 4 minutes, 15.165 seconds.
Meares' world-record ride soon followed. She took the mark from
China's Jiang Yonghua, who rode immediately before Meares and had
been sitting in first place with a new Olympic record. Jiang set
the previous world record at the 2002 world championships.
"I never dreamed of this,'' the 20-year-old Meares said.
Hoy was one of four men -- including Australia's Shane Kelly, who
didn't even medal -- to break the Olympic men's time trial standard.
Hoy's winning time for four laps was 1:00.711, nearly a full
second better than the previous Olympic mark of 1:01.609 another
British rider, Jason Queally, in Sydney.
"It was very calm tonight, very warm, and the conditions were
exceptionally fast,'' Hoy said. "That is why you saw such quick
The men's and women's finishes duplicated those at this year's
world championships, where Jiang and France's Arnaud Tournant also
settled for silver.
"When you see an Olympic record being broken four times in one
day, you can appreciate the talent,'' said Tournant, who finished
Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus won the women's bronze in 34.167
seconds. Germany's Stefan Nimke, a silver medalist at the Sydney
time trial, won the men's bronze in 1:01.186.
When Meares saw her record time, she reached into the sold-out
stands, grabbed an Australian flag from a fan and took a victory
lap, the flag unfurling horizontally over her head.
"I expected to improve this much in maybe another two years'
time,'' said Meares, who gave Australia its second Athens cycling
gold, joining Sara Carrigan's in the women's road race. "It's been
an absolutely wonderful roller-coaster ride.''