Victoria Pendleton's domination of women's match sprinting at World Championships level ended when she took bronze yesterday, her worst result since Canada's Lori-Ann Muenzer pushed her into fourth in Melbourne way back in 2004.
The reigning Olympic championand five times World Champion was eased out in the semi-finals by Anna Meares, a silver medallist in Beijing who has never – until this last season – really matched Pendleton. However, the Australian – part of the team that beat Pendleton and Jess Varnish into silver in the team sprint at this year's World Championships – has stepped up her game in the individual sprint too since 2008: after beating Pendleton in the last two World Cup rounds, yesterday afternoon, the trend continued.
Pendleton clawed back into contention after Meares took a resounding win in the first round of three in the semis, and was en route to do the same in the second. However, Mearesplayed a superb tactical game in the third round, keeping Pendleton high in the banking and then fending her off as the Briton tried to come back in the final metres. Stung by a 2-1 defeat, Pendleton scored a tight first victory against Belarus Olga Panarinaand then made a tactical lunge that took her through to bronze.
While Meares progressed to gold, Pendleton had to accept it was her poorest World Championships individual sprint result since 2004 and conceded she may focus on one title in London 2012 rather than spread her talents too widely. "It could be better to be the master of one discipline," she said, "but in any case I'm not giving up the fight yet. I was the only person to take a ride from [beat] Anna Meares in the whole World Championships which shows that even if she's in the form of her life, I can still do it."
In the men's keirin there was another surprise defeat for Great Britain when Sir Chris Hoy lost a title he has won for three of the last four years. Hoy's team-mate Matt Crampton took control from the front of the final with two laps to go, but the Scot was beaten to the punch by Australia's Shane Perkins.
"I didn't have much in my legs tonight, and I came up a bit short," Hoy said. "I'm not at my best yet, and it's going to take a very special performance to beat me in London."