• Kyodo, AFP-JIJI


Japan was awarded a 2020 Olympic quota spot in the women’s omnium when Yumi Kajihara claimed gold at the World Track Cycling Championships in Germany on Friday, virtually guaranteeing herself a spot on the Olympic team.

The 22-year-old University of Tsukuba senior, winner of the omnium Asian Games title in 2018, made history by becoming the first Japanese omnium rider to finish on the podium at worlds.

The omnium is an endurance event comprising four mass-start races held on a single day — scratch, tempo, elimination, and points races. The rider with the highest score at the end of the points race is the winner.

Kajihara finished with a total of 121 points, despite suffering a fall in the elimination race.

Kajihara led from the start after winning the opening scratch race, which saw defending world champion Kirsten Wild relegated from second place for causing a five-rider crash.

“My mom’s cheering kept me going when it got hard,” said Kajihara, who beat Letizia Paternoster of Italy and Daria Pikulik of Poland to gold.

“I want to spend the remaining days training with confidence and make sure I win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.”

Four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny, of Britain, was among those caught up in the crash during the scratch race.

The 27-year-old Kenny, wife of six-time Olympic gold medalist Jason Kenny, reportedly needed stitches around her right eye after being hit by two riders.

Italian Filippo Ganna beat his own men’s individual pursuit world record with a time of 4 minutes, 1.934 seconds before clinching his fourth world title in the event.

The 23-year-old, who rides on the road for Team Ineos, was close to breaking the symbolic four-minute mark in his qualifying run.

Ganna set the previous record of 4:2.647 seconds in November.

He claimed his fourth individual title, having also taken gold in 2016, 2018 and 2019, by cruising to victory in the final against American Ashton Lambie.

But Ganna, who also claimed individual silver in 2017, did not threaten his earlier record, winning in 4:3.875.

Frenchman Corentin Ermenault beat Italian teenager Jonathan Milan to take the bronze medal.

Germany’s Emma Hinze beat Russian Anastasia Voinova in two runs to take the women’s sprint gold.

It was the home favorite’s second title of the championships, having also been part of the winning team sprint outfit.

Hinze knocked out three-time world champion Lee Wai-sze of Hong Kong in the semifinals.

“I can’t believe it,” she said of her win, which came two years after the last world title won by compatriot Kristina Vogel, who was left paraplegic following a serious accident.

“I had never cried after a victory before. It’s so special, I didn’t expect it.”

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