Russia takes gold in track sprint after penalty for China

LONDON (AP) China was downgraded from gold to silver for an illegal change in the women's team sprint at the track cycling world championships on Wednesday, handing the title to Russia.

Initially, it looked to be a repeat of last year's top two at the worlds in Paris, with China and Russia taking gold and silver respectively.

The changeover is meant to happen on a designated part of the track, but a rule infringement meant the Chinese pair of Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi were penalized

There was no leave to appeal and with the Chinese not able to challenge the decision, the gold went to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova in 32.679 seconds.

China head coach Benoit Vetu was going to hospital with a suspected broken right hand after he angrily hit a table on learning the decision. His hand was subsequently bandaged and packed with ice.

He told The Associated Press: ''It was just one millimeter too early. It is the rules but the rules are bad.''

The Russian pair was almost speechless.

''It is like something unbelievable, unforgettable, I cannot say how I feel really because it is like `oh wow','' Voinova said.

''We were ready to fight: it didn't work with the time. We were satisfied with the silver medal and when we heard that the Chinese team was relegated, we were very happy.''

Olympic champion Germany was third, beating Australia in the bronze medal race-off.

New Zealand won the men's team sprint title, beating the Netherlands in the final in 43.257 seconds.

The trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Ed Dawkins had finished second to France in last year's worlds.

Germany was third, ahead of France.

The Olympic track cycling program in Rio de Janeiro starts on Aug. 11, with New Zealand seemingly now the favorites.

''We've got a line in the sand now, but to be honest that is all it is,'' Webster said. ''You can go on about favoritism but ultimately it's whoever lines up in August and does the fastest three team sprints in 90 minutes because the Olympic program is different.

''We've got a few things we have been working on in terms of preparing for those demands and we've done some of it leading into here.''

Rebecca Wiasak of Australia was the day's first winner of a rainbow jersey when she made a successful defense of her individual pursuit title.

Wiasak, who set a velodrome record in qualifying, won in 3:34.099. Malgorzata Wojtyra of Poland was second, 7.8 seconds behind. Annie Foreman-Mackey of Canada took bronze.

''I am so happy with my own performance: it's a huge improvement on my performance at the national championships,'' Wiasak said. ''I am really proud of the way I turned that around and I guess fed off the confidence, our whole squad has been training so well in the lead up.''

The individual pursuit is not an Olympic event.

''I was named as the reserve for the team pursuit and that is still my goal, I really want to break into the team before Rio,'' Wiasak said.

Sebastian Mora won the scratch race, adding the world title to European gold, heading the 21-man field ahead of Ignacio Prado of Mexico and Claudio Imhof of Switzerland.

Britain was the fastest through in the men's team pursuit qualifiers.

The hosts, with Bradley Wiggins making his first track worlds appearance since 2008, qualified in 3:55.664 ahead of Australia, defending champion New Zealand and Italy.

In Thursday's semfinals, Britain faces Italy, while Australia takes on New Zealand to determine which teams will race for the gold medal.

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This story has been corrected to show that New Zealand won, rather than retained the men's title.

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