Hoy and Meares set tone on the track

The first day of track racing saw the start of a GB-Australia duel...

The first day of track racing saw the start of a GB-Australia duel...
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Olympic records fell like dominoes this afternoon in the Athens velodrome in a men's kilometre time trial event that must have been one of the most tense track finals in Olympic history. The women's time trial was almost as spectacular and the battle for pursuit gold is expected to be equally gripping. In the end, after record times from Shane Kelly (Australia), Arnaud Tournant of France and Stefan Nimke of Germany, Chris Hoy of Team GB got to his feet (with a bit of a start as the countdown clock for some reason started early) and climbed onto his bike at the start gate. Within two minutes the 28-year-old Scot, after an electrifying ride, had dropped his helmet to the trackside and to the acclaim of a packed velodrome was flying the Union flag above his head, after setting a new Olympic record time of 1:00.711 with a speed of 59.297kph. "I was really nervous, more nervous than I have ever been in my life," an elated Hoy said. "Knowing about the other times was hard and in the past I have let myself be distracted. So I tried to focus on my ride and not on the others. I've learned to do that and today was all about me thinking about my own ride in my own little world. "There's a lot of pressure as last man off," Hoy said. "Tonight the times were so good that any of us might have won it but it was my night and I owe thanks to a lot of people. Jason Queally has been an inspiration to me. What he did in Sydney opened my eyes and it was a breakthrough moment for the British team. "He has helped me with my training and we now have the best support team in the world, but there are countless people to thank for this," Hoy said of 2000 Olympic champion Queally and his family and friends, 16 of whom were watching from the stands. Meanwhile, Queally, the Sydney kilo champion, said: "It was an incredible performance with phenomenal times. As last man, Chris had all the pressure on his shoulders. A lot of people would crack under that, but he dealt with it." The women's 500-metre time trial fell to Anna Meares of Australia. It took a new world and Olympic record to clinch the event as Meares overtook Chinese sprinter Yonghua Jiang to seal her first gold medal. Fifth starter in the women's 500-metre time trial, British rider Vicki Pendleton's steep learning curve continued as she led the discipline by just two hundredths of a second until the later competitors in the 12-woman field relegated her to sixth. "It was more than I expected," said Pendleton, of her personal best time, which was a new British record. "I expect other records to go. It's a fast track and the heat helps too." In the men's individual pursuit, an assured Bradley Wiggins beat the existing Olympic record by more than three seconds in his opening pursuit qualifying round. Moments later, in his first heat, Rob Hayles (GB) also beat the Olympic record as he comfortablyoutpaced Robert Bartko of Germany, gold medallist in Sydney. In Saturday's individual pursuit finals, Hayles will meet Sergi Escobar of Spain in the ride-off for bronze and Wiggins will go head to head with old rival Brad McGee of Australia, who appears to have recovered well from his Tour de France disappointment, in the battle for gold. Australia and Britain are fast emerging as the nations to beat on the Athens track; that rivalry may well climax with a gripping battle in the team pursuit events on Monday, when some old scores, many of them a hangover from the last world championships, could be settled. "I think today has set the tone," said Pendleton. "The Brits versus the Aussies - that's what we can expect for the rest of the competition."
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