BIRMINGHAM, England — Safety concerns forced Australian cycling officials to make a significant adjustment to the team’s racing bikes at the Commonwealth Games on Monday.
Almost a year after Australian cyclist Alex Porter suffered serious facial injuries at the Tokyo Olympics when his handlebars failed during a race, a review found the equipment unsafe.
It attributed part of the blame to governance issues, finding the custom-made pursuit handlebars designed to maximize performance were not adequately tested.
An announcement on Monday from AusCycling said that after “extensive testing and an exhaustive investigation of alternatives,” adjustments were required immediately.
That meant, on the last day of Commonwealth racing, Australian cyclists in the men’s 1,000-meter time trial did so using drop bars instead of pursuit bars.
AusCycling chief executive Jesse Korf conceded the equipment change would result in slower times, with the drop bars forcing riders to adopt a less aerodynamic position.
“We acknowledge that this decision has created a degree of disappointment, but the riders and the broader team understand that safety is our top priority,” Korf said.
“We have made significant changes to procedures, team structure and process since the Tokyo Olympics and this decision is reflective of a new and thorough approach to long-term engineering excellence, competitive success and athlete welfare.”
The adjustments did not stop Australia’s men from dominating the event, with Matthew Glaetzer beating compatriot Tom Cornish by more than half a second.
In winning the event for the third time, Glaetzer equaled Australian track cycling star Anna Meares’ record of five Commonwealth Games gold medals.
The safety of riders and spectators has been a key issue to emerge from the meeting at the Lee Valley velodrome in London after two major crashes saw riders hospitalized on the weekend.
Cycling great Chris Hoy called for perspex barriers to be introduced at velodromes after Olympic champion Matt Walls was catapulted into the crowd with his bike on Sunday. The accident caused a session to be abandoned and spectators ushered out as Walls was treated for almost 40 minutes.
He was later released from hospital alongside two other riders, while spectators also required medical attention after being struck by the English rider.
Australia and New Zealand finished the track cycling with a leading eight golds and 13 medals each, but the biggest cheer was reserved naturally for Laura Kenny, who won England’s only gold medal in the women’s scratch race almost a decade after her breakthrough at the London Olympics in the same arena.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist highlighted the example of her swimming compatriot Adam Peaty, who confirmed he is struggling for motivation, adding she suffered a crisis of confidence after seeing Walls’ crash. But Kenny gathered herself overnight.
“I do feel right now, (standing) here, I need to step back again. And then reset. Because it took every single last bit of energy to get me on that start line today,” she said.
“Last night, I was like, ‘This could be it. This literally could be your last bike race. You need to fight for it and you need to make sure that if this is, you’re going with a bang.’
“And I can’t do that day in, day out. I can’t physically gee myself up like that every day.”
Swimmer Kyle Chalmers has been the subject of much discussion in Australia regarding his former relationship with record-breaking compatriot Emma McKeon, who is dating fellow team member Cody Simpson.
On Saturday night, Chalmers engaged in a robust exchange with journalists after anchoring a gold medal-winning 4×100-meter relay and said he considered retirement because of the reporting.
But the controversy did not impact his form in the pool.
The 2016 Olympic 100-meter champion claimed the Commonwealth gold medal on Monday. On touching the wall, Chalmers stood up in the pool and put his fingers to his lips to shush his critics.
“It’s something I’d thought about,” he said. “Normally I’d envision doing a more powerful celebration after a win, but that one was special.
“It probably means more than giving a fist-bump or tensing muscles. I hope that sends a powerful message.”
McKeon wasn’t distracted either, shrugging off the swirling speculation and winning the 50 butterfly for a record-extending 12th gold medal, two more than any athlete.
In field hockey, the India men let slip a three-goal lead against England to draw 4-4 in a pool game at the University of Birmingham.
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