Laura Kenny has called for bigger barriers to be fitted at velodromes after a horrific crash saw England’s Matt Walls catapulted over the railings and into the crowd on Sunday.
Paramedics erected screens to shield Walls, who won omnium gold and madison silver for Team GB at last summer’s Olympic Games, while he received treatment for 40 minutes at the Lee Valley VeloPark before being taken to hospital.
Somehow, the 24-year-old avoided major injuries in the crash and was discharged from hospital by the evening with little more than bumps and bruises. However, 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 with a man covered in blood later being taken away in a wheelchair. 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 the final lap of qualifying for the men’s scratch race.
It was the latest incident to plague the cycling at the Commonwealth Games, with the sprinter Joe Truman also breaking his collarbone and being knocked unconscious in a crash on Saturday.
And speaking on Sunday afternoon, Kenny urged the sport to do more to prevent “dangerous” incidents on the track. “I think the crashes are getting worse and it’s because the speeds are getting higher, the positions 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. 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 occurred when several riders ahead of Walls collided going into a corner. The 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.
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.
Kenny later revealed that she was so shaken after the crash that she nearly withdrew from the women’s points race and had spoken to her husband Jason before deciding whether to compete.
“It was horrendous,” she said. “It was playing on my mind earlier, I messaged Jason and said: ‘I’m not sure I even want to do this.’ It just puts everything into perspective when something like that happens. I’m just glad he was conscious straight away because Joe’s crash was enough.
Truman’s crash on Saturday happened when he was riding at 45mph in the keirin and went into Australian Matthew Glaetzer, who had tumbled to the deck in front of him.
Truman, 25, a world silver medallist sprinter, showed little signs of life at first but later managed to sit up and was given an oxygen mask before being helped into a wheelchair. After being taken to the Royal London Hospital, British Cycling confirmed that Truman had suffered a broken left collar bone and concussion.
“It’s a dangerous sport, we all know it’s dangerous,” Kenny said. “When you’re not feeling physically fit enough to put yourself at the front of it, you wonder why you’re doing it. That’s the third time I’ve been in a velodrome and watched someone go over the top. Is the top of it too dangerous?”
Kenny was speaking after finishing in a surprise 13th position in the points race, which she put down to poor form. Gold was won by Australia’s Georgia Baker with Neah Evans taking silver for Scotland and Wales’s Eluned King bronze.