August 08, 2016
Melissa Hoskins of the Australian women's track cycling team is tended to after crashing during a training session inside the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Pavel Golovkin

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Australian cyclist Melissa Hoskins was released from the hospital hours after a terrifying crash in training Monday, and she still hopes to compete in the team pursuit competition later this week.

The team of Hoskins, Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson were at race speed of nearly 60 kph (37 mph) when they clipped wheels at the end of the back straight. Edmondson stayed on her bike as the other riders fell hard behind her on the banked wooden surface.

Hoskins was put in a back brace as a precaution and taken to a Rio de Janeiro hospital for an examination. Tests revealed no broken bones and she was released several hours later.

''I remember the whole thing. I had nowhere to go, straight over the handlebars and landed heavily on my side,'' she said. ''For those watching, it would have been spectacular. We certainly weren't on a Sunday stroll. We were doing high-speed pace efforts.''

Ankudinoff, Baker and Cure walked off the track and were treated for bruises and floor burns, and Edmondson tweeted: ''Everyone is OK! Bruised, battered but OK'' with a thumbs-up emoticon.

The team pursuit competition begins with qualifying Thursday.

''The women are all in reasonable spirits considering they touched the deck,'' Australia coach Kevin Tabotta said. ''I am not going to lie, no one wants to see that happen. It is not something we plan for, but we do plan to respond to these sorts of things.''

Each pursuit squad has five riders but only four compete in a race. So even if Hoskins is unable to go during qualifying, the Australian team should still be at the start line.

''I am staying positive. After four years of hard work, you don't want to give up when you are this close,'' she said. ''Luckily we have four girls who are firing and will fly the flag if I can't.''

Hoskins helped Australia win the team pursuit at the world championships last year, and along with Edmondson was part of the squad that was fourth at the London Olympics. But both of them have had a tough year, Hoskins dealing with pneumonia and Edmondson getting hit by a car.

Their crash in practice was hardly the first of the Olympic cycling program.

During the men's road race Saturday, several riders hit the deck on the descent of the Vista Chinesa climb. Vincenzo Nibali was left with a broken collarbone, Sergio Henao a fractured pelvis and Australian rider Richie Porte with a broken scapula.

Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten crashed from the lead on the same descent in the women's race Sunday, sending her to the hospital with a concussion and three fractures of her spine. She was still in the hospital Monday while awaiting the results of more tests.

Some riders who practiced on the $56 million Olympic velodrome this week have complained of the wood surface, which was delayed several times during installation and only recently opened.

''At first it looks very fast, but now I think it is not very fast at all,'' German sprinter Rene Enders said. ''After training on it, the boards have a lot of grip, and the wood is soft. It's a difficult track to race on because the wood is new and a little bit damp. It will get faster, in a few years, but not during these Games. It's OK because it is the same for everybody.''

The Australian team has been practicing on a similar track in Los Angeles, and arrived in Rio confident their pursuit squad could challenge the favored Americans and British for gold.

Those aspirations didn't change even after their harrowing crash.

''As a team, they were on the best training form since they won the world title in 2015,'' Tabotta said. ''Sure, this has put a spanner in the works now, but they have had some great preparation and we are not looking backward. We are only looking forward.''

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