Inside the Olympics with Tony Gibb: Crossing the line

We’re proud to have access to former world silver and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist – and now Eurosport commentator – Tony Gibb, who is providing us with a daily insider’s view of life in and around the Olympic velodrome. Here’s his view of the first day of track action yesterday (Thursday).

It’s getting hot in here

So the first day of track competition, and I am buzzing! It’s all hit home: I’m here, at the Olympics. It’s weird being so close, knowing all the people involved.

So after an early morning training spin, followed by late brekky, Dave wants to head to the track early and wants to try the javelin train from King’s Cross. So after a 20-minute walk in the sun, a eight-minute train journey and another 45-minute walk through the park we arrive at a very, very warm track. Now I understand why everyone wants it hot but you walk through the first airtight door and one of the 75,000 purple t-shirt brigade will not let you walk through the next airtight sealed door until the first one is closed.

Anyway, all set. We found our spot in a rather good position right by the finish line, had all my research done, paperwork with me so I started wondering around and saying a few hellos! Chris Boardman, Rob Hayles – you know, old mates. Giovanni Lombardi, who is a good friend and a top, top guy. Scott McGrory, with whom I took my one and only six-day win. Freddy Magne, Maurizio Fondriest – who Giovanni introduced me too – who is just such a nice down-to-earth guy and just wanted to know where and when we were going out in London. Now that could end up messy!

Talking points

So, over to the track. A track is a track – it’s the people who make the atmosphere, and I have to say that the crowd here was simply stunning: applause and cheers just for GB riders warming up, and even the very first competitor in the women’s team sprint received a massive cheer, as did every Olympic and world record regardless of nation.

It was heartbreak for Jess Varnish as a split-second error cost GB a guaranteed medal (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

There were three massive talking points through the evening. Firstly the disqualification of the GB women’s team sprinters, Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish. The start/finish line for timed events is exactly half-way along each straight. For the team sprint there is a line 15 metres before and 15 metres after the start/finish line. When one rider is completing their lap in either the men’s or women’s team sprint they cannot come out of the sprinter’s line before the first 15-metre line and must be out of it by the second line. Additionally the front wheel of the following rider cannot overlap the back wheel of the lead rider before the first 15-metre line. Sadly for Great Britain, they fell foul of both of these rules.

This, as you can imagine was met with boos from the crowd that you would not believe! So Jess and Vicky packed up and left. My heart goes out to Jess. It’s harsh but that’s elite sport: the rules are the rules.

It was somewhat welcomed in the final when the Chinese team were relegated to second having beaten the Germans, for the same reasons. However, given that it took a good ten minutes for the judges to decide this, interviews were being given, high-fives exchanged et cetera – but the result still hadn’t been officially announced yet.

From a media perspective I guess the medal ceremony was a fair pointer but a communique or announcement would have been nice. It’s fair to say the info and the distribution of it could be improved. Well, Guo Shuang stormed the judges’ desk to such an extent that they posted three purple t-shirts on it immediately afterwards and the Chinese riders’ French Daniel Morelon looked like he was going to start chopping heads off. He scared me and I was 75 metres away in the stands! Whether you or I agree or disagree, the rules are the rules and they were implemented fairly and consistently here.

So on to the men’s team sprint. Young Philip Hindes wasn’t happy with his start so he fell off. Now that’s quick thinking – proper sinister Dr Evil thinking – but quick nonetheless! Agree with it? Not me. Against the rules? No. Against the ‘spirit’, well, that’s for you to decide.

A GB record-tying fifth gold medal for Sir Chris Hoy (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Anyway, he dusted himself off and then with Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy had a pretty faultless run through to the final where they demolished the French to take another gold for Team GB. They were just up after one lap, I think by 0.06s, then I think 0.09s after two laps, and then the talismanic demi-god that is Sir Chris Hoy brought it home by almost a quarter of a second. Now the French had a bit of a moan and tried to get GB disqualified but that wasn’t going anywhere and I think the crowd may have rioted if it had!

So a fantastic first day for Team GB. The world record in the team pursuit qualifier only warrants a mere mention in closing because quite frankly it’s going to get beaten again. The Aussies didn’t really show their full hand. I don’t think they will go fast enough to beat Team GB but it may be a bit closer than qualifying looked. Needless to say I got the bus home. Seven minutes walking and done!

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