By Martyn Herman
BERLIN (Reuters) – Yumi Kajihara became the first Japanese woman to be crowned as a world track cycling champion as she claimed gold in the omnium, while Italy’s Filippo Ganna kept the records tumbling with a masterful day of riding on Friday.
Olympic omnium champion Laura Kenny, recovering from a broken shoulder, crashed heavily in the opening scratch race which Kajihara won and the 22-year-old never looked back.
She built her lead with a second place in the tempo race and a third spot in the elimination event and easily protected her advantage in the points race, the last discipline.
Italy’s Letizia Paternoster was second with Poland’s Daria Pikulik third.
“I’m very, very happy,” Kajihara said. “My ultimate goal is to get the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.”
Germany’s new sprint star Emma Hinze produced the loudest roars of the day as she outpaced Russia’s Anastasia Voinova to win the individual sprint, having already won the team event.
Watched by reigning Olympic sprint champion Kristina Vogel, who was left paralyzed after a training accident in 2018, the 22-year-old Hinze proved she will be one to watch in Tokyo.
“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “But I felt strong. I learned a lot watching Kristina, that even if it doesn’t work at first, you stick at it and you can win.”
Italy’s Ganna was a dominant force on the Berlin boards on his way to gold in the men’s individual pursuit — a fourth world title in the event.
Ganna easily beat American Ashton Lambie in the final, standing up as he crossed the line, but the real fireworks came earlier when he clocked 4:01.934 for the 4km distance.
A relentless ride saw him beat his previous record of 4:02.647. Although his pace in the final slowed, it was more than enough to overpower Lambie and collect his second medal here after leading Italy to bronze in the team pursuit.
Ganna’s world record was the sixth in three days at the championships after Denmark’s men broke the team pursuit record three times on the way to gold and the Dutch men twice lowered the world record to take the team sprint.
The Dutch took their gold-medal haul to four as Sam Ligtlee won the 1km men’s time trial.
Ligtlee, 22, beat two Frenchman to claim his first rainbow jersey, dipping below one minute to clock 59.495 seconds.
Quentin Lafargue, fastest in qualifying, could not match him, crossing in 59.749. Michael D’Almeida was third.
New Zealand struck gold in the shape of teenager Corbin Strong who lapped the field to win the men’s points race.
Kenny’s crash, which left her with four stitches next to her right eye, but thankfully no more shoulder damage, summed up a poor championships so far for the British team who had topped the 2016 Rio Olympics track cycling medals table with six golds, four silvers and one bronze.
In Berlin they have managed only two silvers and are ninth in the table.
“It’s just been one of those months. One to forget,” four-time Olympic champion Kenny, who broke her shoulder in a crash in Canada last month but opted against surgery, said.
“Even after I headbutted the floor I thought ‘it doesn’t matter that I’m not in for a medal. I just want to race.”
While Kenny will head off to patch up her wounds and recover full fitness for the Tokyo Olympics, Kajihara will travel home having announced herself as a genuine threat to her title.
“It was my mum’s (Yuri) birthday today and she was here to watch me,” Kajihara said. “It couldn’t have gone any better today. After the first three events, I knew I was comfortable.”