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Friday, August 20, 2004
Aussie Meares wins 500m time trial

Associated Press

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 times.''

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 in 1:00.896.

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.''