September 29 - Britain's Neil Fachie has called on the International Cycling Federation (UCI) to reconsider its plans to drop the tandem sprint event from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games programme.
The world governing body, who elected Briton Brian Cookson as its new President in Florence on Friday (September 27), is considering a revamp of medal events for the next Paralympics, which would see the track tandem sprint competition removed from the programme in favour of extra medals in road cycling.
Currently, there are three male tandem pairings on the track, the sprint, the kilo and the four kilometre pursuit while the kilo and the three kilometres pursuit are contested by women.
But the UCI wants to change the cycling programme so that there are two single sex road events in the tricyle competition resulting in two male and two female medals available at Rio 2016, thus reducing the number of medals on offer on the track.
Should the changes go ahead, Fachie, who won gold in the kilo and silver in the tandem at London 2012 with partner Barney Storey, would lose the opportunity to compete in one of his strongest disciplines in three year's time and would mean changing his training regime to accommodate the pursuit event.
"To lose one of my two events would be extremely disappointing," 29-year-old Fachie, who won World Championship gold in 2009, told the BBC.
"It is exciting and one of the real spectator-friendly events and it would be a shame to lose something that has captured the public's attention.
"I'm more of a sprinter and although I have ridden the pursuit a few times, it doesn't play to my strengths.
"To double up in the kilo and the pursuit and win both would be very tough.
"They are two very different events - it is like getting a 200m runner to double up in the 1500m.
"It is also tough to change your long-term focus with less than three years to go until Rio.
"At the moment, I am still training for the sprint event, especially as it will be part of the programme for next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but I know I'm not the only Paralympic or Olympic athlete who has ever faced losing an event.
"However, we've [Britain] been so dominant in the event at World Championships and Paralympics, it would be a sore one to take."
Fachie, from Aberdeen, fears that the proposed changes could lead to athletes turning away from cycling due to the limited number of medal chances, and that is a view shared by British Cycling's Para-cycling head coach and former tandem pilot John Norfolk.
"It would be the end of tandem sprinting if it goes from the Paralympic programme," said Norfolk.
"It would be shame to see an event that is close to my heart, disappear, but if it does, we will just have to adapt accordingly."
It remains to be seen whether having the newly elected Cookson as the top man at the UCI will help with calls to retain the tandem sprint, but British Cycling has written to the governing body to ask them to reconsider and performance manager Gareth Sheppard is no doubt that the event should be retained.
"The tandem sprint is arguably the most exciting event on the Para-cycling programme and captured the imagination of not only spectators in London last summer but millions around the world," said Sheppard.
"We understand the rationale for splitting the tricycle races but the tandem sprint should not be sacrificed to accommodate this.
"The number of cycling events in Paralympic Games is already heavily weighted towards road - losing one of the stand-out events on the track programme would be a huge loss not only for our riders but also for audiences around the world."
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