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Gold medal British cyclist crashed deliberately

RUPERT GUINNESS
Last updated 14:59 03/08/2012
Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain
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TRIUMPH: Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain celebrate with their gold medals.

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At the very least, it was a bizarre thing to say, especially in light of the tanking issues raised in the badminton and basketball competitions. But when British track cyclist Philip Hindes seemed to suggest he had deliberately crashed in the qualifying round of the men's team sprint to ensure a restart after a poor start, very serious questions were raised over the legitimacy of the British victory which had delivered Chris Hoy's fifth Olympic gold medal.

Though British officials later dismissed Hindes's words, insisting their meaning had been "lost in translation", the controversy cast a giant pall over the celebrations for Hoy's triumph.

At the least, the comments deserve scrutiny by the British or International Olympic Committee, and not merely left to go unexplained.

The incident happened in the qualifying round against Germany.

The British appeared to get off to a poor start, and soon after Hindes - designated to lead the team over the first lap - appeared to lose control of his bike, fell awkwardly on his top bar and then came a cropper as the team entered the first bank.

His teammates, Hoy and Jason Kenny, quickly raised their hands and called for a restart.

The crash began a night of high drama on the track that ended with Great Britain beating France in the gold medal race, while Germany beat Australia for the bronze.

However, the night took a curious turn when 19-year-old Hindes, who switched his allegiance from Germany to Great Britain two years ago, told media that he had crashed on purpose.

"We were saying if we have a bad start we need to crash to get a restart," Hindes said.

"I just crashed, I did it on purpose to get a restart, just to have the fastest ride. I did it. So it was all planned, really."

It was an astonishing thing to say. In track cycling, the rules dictate that in the event of an early crash, teams can restart their race.

British officials said Hindes's meaning had been "lost in translation", citing his lack of fluency in English, and the result was soon declared valid.

The UCI, when contacted by AFP, confirmed the result would stand.

Adding to the mystery was Hindes's response when he was asked, during the post-race press conference, if he had crashed deliberately.

At first he baulked, or appeared to not understand the question.

Reporters who had not heard his initial comments were taken aback more by the question itself.

"No," Hindes said, with a blank look on his face.

"I just went out the gate and just lost control, just fell down. My back wheel slipped and totally lost control and then I couldn't handle the bike any more and just crashed."

According to AAP, the Australian cycling team would not comment on the issue; but French track team boss Isabelle Gautheron told AFP: "It's pretty obvious from the video pictures that he crashed to get the restart.''

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''There is nothing in the rules to sanction such an action, but now that he's come out and said it, I hope the authorities consider making a change to the rules. We're still bitter to have lost the final."

Whatever the truth behind the crash, the British rallied immediately.

Not long afterwards, they were at the starting blocks again and clocked the fastest qualifying time of 43.065 seconds. From there, the gold medal.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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