While their endurance counterparts were flying high in the team pursuit, Great Britain’s team sprint squads failed to impress on the opening day of the UCI Track World Championships in London. Both teams missed out on medals after they were knocked out of qualifying in Wednesday’s afternoon session.
To add insult to injury for the British women, Katy Marchant and Jessica Varnish’s fifth place was not enough to secure the team a slot in the event at the Olympic Games. They needed to finish with at least two teams between the French and themselves, but they closed the afternoon session with just the Netherlands as a buffer. The result means that they only qualify one sprinter for the Olympic Games in Rio.
“We’ve given everything. We’ve done everything we’ve been asked of. To be fifth in the world and not ride in the Olympics, I’ve got no words,” Marchant told the press after the session had finished. “We should never have been in the position that we’re in today. To be able to come out and perform like we did today, under the pressure that we’ve been under, I’m proud of Jess. I’m proud of myself. But to be sitting here saying we’re not going to the Olympics is heart-breaking.”
Britain’s women’s sprint team has been hit by a number of injuries and changes in the past year, meaning that they were cutting Olympic qualification very fine. Varnish, who missed out on a shot at a medal in London 2012 when the team were disqualified in the first round, was heavily critical of the way Great Britain’s decision-making in the build-up to the competition.
“Decisions have gone on above us that are out of our control. When you’re starting to qualify for the Olympic Games you cannot have these decisions happen,” Varnish said. “There’s been people put out for races, say European Championships last year… it’s great they’ve been given an opportunity to major championships and to try to qualify the ‘A team’ a place at Olympic Games, but they’re not there yet. We have been basically playing catch up through bad decisions and bad luck.”
When asked whether or not she would continue for the 2020 Olympics, Varnish replied. “I feel sick. I don’t know (Tokyo). We put our lives on the line for this.
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