Cycling: Fallen hero Pendleton shrugs off crash to win gold

 

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Victoria Pendleton took Britain's gold-medal tally to four in dramatic style here at the Track World Championships yesterday by claiming the women's sprint title for a record-equalling sixth time.

The 31-year-old's hopes of matching that record, set by Russian Galina Zvereva in the 1960s and 1970s, looked dead and buried when she crashed on the wooden banking in a physical first encounter of her best-of-three semi-final against Anna Meares.

Even fully fit, Pendleton was not favoured to beat her Australian nemesis, who last suffered a sprint defeat to Pendleton back in 2009 and had broken the world record in the previous day's qualifying. With bandages on her right shoulder, elbow and hip to cover track burns, even less so.

So Pendleton's already slim hopes of making the final looked gone when she lost the second race to Meares, only for the Australian to be relegated for coming off her racing line. That set up a finale that saw Pendleton back to her Olympic-winning pomp of 2008. She ducked and weaved behind the normally unflappable Meares, and they crossed the line seemingly as one – but the photo-finish result sparked jubilant celebrations from the British camp.

If beating Meares was more important with the Olympics in mind, her final against Simona Krupeckaite did not lack for drama. Pendleton won the first race and Krupeckaite the second, only for the commissaires to rule the Lithuanian had twice ridden illegally on the last lap, coming off the racing line on the penultimate bend and then using her elbows unfairly.

The result saw all three of the protagonists burst into tears, after which Pendleton said: "I'm delighted I won but it's nice to win by crossing the line first. Relegations always make it a bit weird. It's a shame in some respects and it's not great for the crowd either but they're the rules.

"With Anna's time being so exceptional yesterday I knew I had to race a lot better than I ever had before."

Pendleton returns to the track for the keirin today, when Britain will certainly have a rider in the men's sprint final after Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny were paired together in the semi-finals.

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