Chinese pair sets women's cycling team sprint WR
LONDON (AP) It didn't take long to figure out that the London Velodrome track is one of the fastest in the world.
British and Chinese riders both improved the women's team sprint world record in the space of a minute in Thursday's opening race of the six-day competition.
Home favorites Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish of Britain clocked 32.526 seconds over the two laps during qualifying to improve on the mark of 32.549 set by Germany in April at the world championships.
Their performance ignited loud applause and whistles in the stands packed with fans holding Union Jacks, but the British fans were quickly silenced by the Chinese pairing of Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang.
The Chinese produced a brutal effort on the track made of Siberian pine wood to establish a new world record of 32.447 seconds.
The team sprint is the most explosive event of the Olympic track program. The women's competition has been introduced this year.
Unlike the team pursuit, where riders have to ride in a perfect line, the sprint is all about speed and power. Each rider completes a lap in the front as fast as possible, and medals can be won or lost for a thousandth of a second.
At the Olympics, each nation sets a qualifying time to decide the fastest teams. The top eight nations ride against each other in the first round with the fastest two winning teams reaching the final and the slower two competing for the bronze medal.
The women's world record had already been broken twice in the velodrome at a World Cup event in February before Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte reclaimed it at the worlds championships in Melbourne, Australia.
The other teams to advance to the first round were Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Pendleton will retire after the London Games and is bidding to add new medals to the Olympic sprint title she won in Beijing.
She won the sprint at the worlds after defeating archrival Anna Meares of Australia in the semifinals.
Meares is also competing in the team sprint with Kaarle McCulloch.
The records continued to tumble in the men's team sprint qualifying.
China set an Olympic mark of 43.751 seconds in the first heat to successfully go off, only to watch five-time world champion France lower the time to 43.097. Reigning Olympic champion Britain with new leadoff man Philip Hindes then did even better, clocking 43.065 seconds to qualify first.
The men's team pursuit qualifying also takes place Thursday.
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