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UCI and IOC agree qualification quotas for Rio 2016

France's Francois Pervis (L) displays his three gold medals won in the Men's Time Trial, Keirin and Sprint, as Germany's Kristina Vogel displays her gold medal in the Women's Keirin, during the 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Cali March2, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez

(Reuters) - Two athletes per nation will be allowed to compete in the men’s and women’s individual Sprint and Keirin at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a change from London 2012 when just one in each event was permitted.

Team GB were forced to pick between the world’s top-two sprint specialists, Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy, four years ago before settling on Kenny who took gold.

After conducting a review process, UCI, cycling’s governing body, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have agreed the qualification systems for the four cycling disciplines - Road, Track, BMX and Mountain Bike.

Under the changes announced by UCI president Brian Cookson on Wednesday, three more nations will be able to participate in BMX with the minimum age of competing reduced to 18, while road quota places through the Africa Tour have increased from five to nine.

“I am delighted that the cycling qualification systems for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have now been approved,” Cookson, who was appointed UCI president in September, said in a statement.

“I am particularly pleased that we can look forward to more nations competing in BMX and that extra quota places have been made available through the Africa Tour circuit for Road and that we will see more of the world’s very best riders compete in the individual sprint and keirin.”

Cookson also announced that host nation Brazil will gain automatic entry into all four cycling disciplines, rather than just BMX as was the case in London.

“With Brazil being granted quota places for Road, Mountain Biking and BMX the 2016 Games provide a genuine opportunity to build on the already significant progress the sport has witnessed there in recent years,” he added.

A total of 528 athletes, 325 men and 203 women, are expected to compete in the 18 cycling events, with the Olympics due to start in Rio on 5 August 2016.

Reporting By Michael Hann; editing by Justin Palmer