More news from the Union Cycliste Internationale's agenda with Olympic track cycling program. Last week they confirmed the format of the Omnium event and this is what it looks like:
1 - Flying Lap (TT)
2 - Points Race (men: 30km, women: 20km)
3 - Elimination Race (Miss and Out)
4 - Individual Pursuit (men: 4,000m, women: 3,000m)
5 - Scratch Race
6 - Kilometer TT (men), 500m TT (women)
Well, there’s the Individual Pursuit and Points Race which were already eliminated from the Olympic program. Also, there’s the Kilo TT (and 500m for women) which was dropped from the Olympics in 2008. Now they are all grouped together in this kitchen sink Omnium. What does this mean?
A lot of people are saying that UCI and the International Olympic Committee are gradually phasing out track cycling in the Olympics. Is this move really foreshadowing the death of Track Cycling?
There are now only 8 events in Olympic Track Cycling (including the separate men’s and women’s contests):
In 2008 we had 10 events. In 2004 we had 12 events. It definitely seems like it’s shrinking.
With the new Omnium format, we’ve got 6 contests housed under one medal. Well so much for specificity. Now if Taylor Phinney wants to win an Olympic medal for his Individual Pursuit effort, he must also ride a killer Kilo and Flying Lap. Could he do that? Yeah, but he’d have to compromise his very specific Pursuit training in order to include training for other events.
The Individual Pursuit is a very specialized event and that’s why there are Pursuit specialists in the world. The same thing goes for the Kilo. The Omnium kind of kills all of that. It’s beginning to look like the IOC only has one Gold Medal to award to an “Overall Track Champion”.
Compare this to swimming with 34 events in 2008 (not including the Diving, Synchronized Swimming or Water Polo events). There are athletes who specialize in very specific swimming events and even still, one man took home 8 Gold Medals, which pretty much made him “Overall Swimming Champion”.
The difference is Phelps had to be the best at ALL those events. In the Omnium, you don’t have to be the best at any of the individual contests. You could come in second for all six races and you’d have an excellent chance at winning the single Gold Medal award. In fact, that’s probably your best bet. You have to be the Jack of all trades, master of none. So this is the new Olympics where mediocrity is rewarded.
With the trend we’re seeing right now, I bet that by 2016 we’ll only have the Omnium and the Team Pursuit. They will take the Sprint competition (which has been narrowed down to 8 qualified riders instead of 18) and throw it into the Omnium, replacing the Flying Lap. Keirin might also become an Omnium contest, replacing the Miss n Out. And that’s that! One Gold Medal to rule them all.
Now I don’t really have a problem with the Omnium as an event in itself. It’s an event contested at the World Camps (since 2007) and obviously most local track race days are set up as Omniums (which is great of course). But this isn’t a local track meet. This is the Olympics. It’s supposed to be a major international event that celebrates and awards the best athleticism shown in ALL disciplines.
That’s why there’s the Shot Put, Hammer Throw, Javelin Throw and Discus Throw… not the “Omnium of Throwing Shit Around”.
Read the news at Cycling Weekly.