The British men won gold in the team sprint, in a world record time. But it almost didn't happen. The Brits could have been eliminated in the first round, if not for a move just as underhanded as anything pulled by those badminton women kicked out of the Olympics.
In team sprint, three cyclists from each country ride in single file. After one lap, the leading cyclist peels off; after a second, another cyclist drops back, leaving the third cyclist to complete the race. In yesterday's qualifying, only the top two teams would progress to the gold medal match. And the British team didn't get off to a good start.
Philip Hindes was in the "man one" position, meaning he had to lead the first lap. But he skidded out of the gate, and was in danger of being passed by a teammate. That would have been a disqualification. So Hindes crashed. On purpose. Because, for some reason, that allowed the British team to restart the entire race.
"So I crashed, I did it on purpose just to get the restart, just to have the fastest ride. It was all planned really," said Hindes.
In track cycling the rules dictate that in the event of an early crash, teams can restart their race and the UCI, when contacted by AFP, said the result would stand.
The 19-year-old said that, with so much at stake in the London Olympic velodrome, he had talked over such scenarios with the British team.
"When that happens you can lose so much time… my only chance was to crash and get the restart," said Hindes, who admitted that neither Hoy nor Kenny had been fazed by his actions.
"I think they knew I'd done it on purpose," he said. "We were speaking yesterday,that if anything happens someone has to crash. So I did it."
British Cycling immediately denied the claim, saying that Hindes's comments were "lost in translation" (Hindes is German-born, but was speaking English to reporters). But it doesn't matter if it was deliberate or not, because a crash means a restart. The IOC ruled the Brits' gold medal will stand.
It's not cheating, but it's damn close. It's taking advantage of a poorly worded loophole, and you can bet if it were any team other than the Brits, there'd be a much larger stink today. But the problem lies not with Hindes—he singlehandedly saved his nation's medal hopes—but with the rules. And the French, who took silver, are calling for the Cycling Union to change the rules on crashes. Which sounds kind of obvious. A false start is a false start, and a crash is a crash. Why should a crash be a false start?
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