31 July 2022

Laura Kenny calls for bigger barriers at velodromes after Matt Walls crash

31 July 2022

Dame Laura Kenny has called for bigger barriers or screens to be fitted in velodromes after a terrifying crash saw England’s Matt Walls go over the railings and into the crowd at the Lee Valley VeloPark on Sunday.

Walls somehow avoided major injuries in the crash and was discharged from hospital by the evening with little more than bumps and bruises, but the severity of the incident – and the difficulty in removing him safely from where he landed – saw the rest of the morning session cancelled.

Two spectators, including a young girl, received treatment for injuries in the velodrome while two other riders – the Isle of Man’s Matt Bostock and Canada’s Derek Gee – were taken to hospital after several riders had crashed during qualifying for the men’s scratch race.

Kenny, having seen sprinter Joe Truman knocked unconscious in a crash on Saturday, fears the sport is growing more dangerous and said action must be taken.

“I think the crashes are getting worse and it’s because the speeds are getting higher, the positions (on the bike) are getting more extreme,” the five-time Olympic champion said. “Some of the pursuit positions people are getting in, you see people crashing into the back of people.

“At some point the UCI are going to have to put a cap on these positions. Maybe there should be screens because Matt should not have been able to go over the top and into the crowd, that’s pretty damn dangerous.

“It’s the third time now I’ve been in a velodrome and witnessed someone go over the top…

Laura Kenny said the crash had been on her mind before she started the women’s scratch race (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

“(Matt) was laughing and making jokes with the paramedics which is brilliant to hear but if he’d (not gone over) he would have done less damage and certainly done less damage to the little girl”.

The crash happened when several riders ahead of Walls collided going into a corner. The 24-year-old Olympic omnium champion tried to avoid the stricken pair of New Zealander George Jackson and Australia’s Josh Duffy but was carrying too much speed and was forced up the banking.

Witnesses said that, because of the gradient of the banking, spectators in the front row had been unsighted as Walls sped towards them. One man needed treatment for cuts to his arm and a young girl also received medical attention for minor injuries.

Walls landed in a section of seating which was not fully occupied – potentially avoiding more serious consequences.

Gee also surfed the top of the barrier but avoided following Walls over it. Gee’s team-mate Mathias Guillemette was disqualified from the race for causing the initial crash.

A statement from Team England said: “Following medical treatment in hospital, Matt Walls has been discharged with stitches in his forehead, scrapes and bruises but thankfully no major injuries.

“We send our best wishes to all other riders and spectators involved in the crash and thank the medical teams for their expert care.”

The Isle of Man team said Bostock had a CT scan from which the initial prognosis was positive. He was later discharged.

Kenny put her lowly 13th-placed finish in the women’s points race down to poor form, but said the incident had been on her mind when she came to the velodrome for the afternoon session.

“I messaged Jason and said, ‘I’m not sure I want to do this’,” she said. “It puts everything into perspective when something like that happens. I’m just glad he was conscious straightaway because Joe (Truman’s) crash yesterday was enough to make you think.

England’s Joe Truman was knocked unconscious in a crash on Saturday (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

“We all know it’s a dangerous sport so when you’re not feeling physically fit to put yourself at the front of it you can’t help but think, ‘Why am I doing this?’

In a statement, a Birmingham 2022 spokesperson said: “Following a crash at the morning session of track and para track cycling at the Lee Valley VeloPark, three cyclists and two spectators have been treated by the onsite medical team.

“The three cyclists have been taken to hospital. The two spectators did not require hospital treatment…

“We would like to send our best wishes to the cyclists and spectators involved in this incident and to thank the medical team for their swift action.”

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