Olympic Feature: Women’s Sprint


The sprint is going to be one of the must see events.  With so many women eyeing the Olympic title, the racing will be fiercely contested and, if the World Championships are anything to go by, there will be some grudges to settle, with thrills and spills along the way.


victoria pendleton crashes while racing anna meares in the world championships 2012


There are two phases to the competition, qualifying and match sprinting.  Qualifying is used to decide which riders will progress to the match sprint rounds and also to seed riders and determine who will ride against who.   


In qualifying, each rider normally rides three laps of the velodrome, but their speed is only measured over the final 200m.  The number of riders that qualify for the sprint rounds depends on the competition; in the Olympics and World Cup competitions, 16 riders will go through to the match sprint rounds, while at World Championships, 24 riders advance.


Jan Van Eijden, Olympic Sprint Coach for the Great Britain Cycling Team, has spoken of how much times have moved on with regards to sprinting on the track.  Both the men and women are going faster now than ever before and this was demonstrated by Anna Meares who broke the World record for the flying 200 at the World championships in Melbourne earlier this year.   The details are all here if you want remind yourself.


victoria pendleton qualifying in the world championships 2012


The qualifying times are vital because they are used to seed the riders for the following rounds.  The fastest qualifier will ride against the slowest qualifier and so a quick qualifying time ensures an easier passage in the next round.  The first round is a sudden death – one match decides who will progress and this is followed by a best-of three-race format from the quarter-final stage.  Riders defeated in the earlier rounds may however get a chance to continue in the competition through repechage races.


However, Jan Van Eiden, speaking to British Cycling was keen to point out “Even if you do not qualify fastest you can still go through and win. It’s not as simple as being fast in the time trial.”  In fact Vicky only qualified fifth in Melbourne, but came through to take the title despite a heavy crash in the quarter final.  We reported all the action here


victoria pendleton in a photo finish versus shuang guo world championships 2012


“Every time you step on your bike as a bike rider, you need to be prepared that you may crash” Van Eiden says “you shouldn’t have it in the forefront of your mind though, but it can happen as you’re not on your own on the track in the sprint.  Vicky was prepared for this and I think, it gave her that little bit of a kick. Even though Anna Meares said after the first ride that it’s all done now, it’s best of three so if you win the first one and your opponent crashes, you know that they can come back through the next two rides. Vicky came back really strong after that, you could see that she really wanted it."


Women’s Sprint Key Facts


Current World Record: flying 200m qualifying 10.782 Anna Meares, Melbourne March 2012

Olympic dates: 5-7 August

Venue: velodrome, Olympic Park

Distance: 500m

Format: The event starts with a 200m time trial to determine the rankings for the 16 riders in the first round. From then on the competition is a knockout, going to quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, which are all the best of three heats


Medal Favourites:   GB’s Vicky Pendleton desperately wants to defend the title before she retires after the games, while Australia’s Anna Meares is clearly on top form this year and always to be respected, but you can’t discount Lithuania’s Simona Krupeckaite either



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