The team thought they'd won the gold medal, but were disqualified for an illegal change

Chinese track sprinters Jinjie Gong and Tianshi Zhong looked to have successfully defended their title at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London, but were relegated to the silver medal position for an ‘illegal change’.

The team’s French coach Benoit Vetu was so angered by the ruling that he hit a table and is thought to have broken his hand.

Vetu told AFP: “It is the rules, but the rules are bad.” He went on to say that the disqualification was a result of a very slight violation.

“It was a millimetre too early, that is all. One millimetre.”

The Chinese team was relegated from gold to silver at London 2012 for a similar, slight infringement in the changeover zone.

2 March 2016 Track World Championships (London, UK) Women Team Sprint 1st : RUSSIA SHMELEVA Daria VOINOVA Anastasiia 2nd : CHINA GONG Jinjie ZHONG Tianshi 3rd : GERMANY WELTE Miriam VOGEL Kristina Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA

Women’s team sprint revised podium. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

The relegation of the Chinese team meant that the Russia pairing of Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova, who had been resolutely beaten, were bumped up to the top step of the podium.

Whilst Vetu was reacting to his riders being dropped a place but still remaining in the medals, recriminations were starting in the British team after they failed to gain qualification to the Olympics.

Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant finished fifth in qualifying but needed to end the day two places above the French team. The French pair came in seventh, ending Team GB’s hopes of an Olympic spot.

The riders vented their frustration at the team management, to which Shane Sutton responded by saying the riders had not been good enough.