Gender parity on track for London Olympics

UCI wants to boost number of women's cycling events

Female track cyclists could be among the biggest winners at the London Olympics after it emerged Saturday that world cycling chiefs want "gender parity" at the 2012 Games.

Currently, there are 10 track cycling finals at the Olympics.

But while the men compete in seven competitions, the women get to contend just three: the sprint, the individual pursuit and the points race.

International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid said it is now time to redress the balance so the men and women compete in five events each. But the Irishman said it would mean losing some men's disciplines.

"We have made requests to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to have new women's events at the Games to redress the balance," McQuaid said here Saturday at the world road race championships.

"We have been told we can have them, but only at the expense at men's events."

McQuaid would not be drawn on which disciplines are to be scrapped. The final decision is expected some time in December.

But it is already known the UCI is keen to promote the men's and women's Omnium, a five-event discipline which has been raced at recent world championships but has not appeared at the Olympics.

It is also believed the UCI is keen to promote the women's keirin, which has proved a success at the world track cycling championships in recent years.

Whichever decisions are made, there are likely to be detractors.

After the Athens Games in 2004, the men's kilometre and women's 500 metre time trial was scrapped from the Games programme, not to make way for new track events but to allow BMX into the programme.

Britain's Chris Hoy, the Olympic kilo champion in 2004, was among the first to complain - only to later admit the decision forced him to concentrate his talents on the speed events of the sprint and the keirin. In Beijing, Hoy won gold in the sprint, the keirin and the team sprint to help Britain to seven golds from the 10 finals.

Britain's chief of cycling Dave Brailsford said he would support any decision if it meant fairness between the sexes.

"It would be sad to lose a classic event like the Madison... but if it brings gender parity I would be pleased," he said here Saturday.

If the team sprint and keirin were to be introduced at the London Games, it would prove a huge boost for Brailsford, and Britain's reigning sprint champion Victoria Pendleton.

In Beijing the men raced seven finals in the individual and team sprint, the individual and team pursuit, the points race, Madison and keirin.

© AFP 2009

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