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Olympic selection news for July 20
Watt, Sunderland, Dawson, Wooldridge not in
With the official announcement of the Australian Olympic team to be made public later today, the reactions have already started from those who have been informed they've missed out. It could turn out to be a repetition of the 1996 scenario, when Kathy Watt was left out of the team and spent much of the year in court, eventually winning the right to compete.
Watt has been told this year that she's not a part of the final three member women's squad, which is likely to comprise Alayna Burns, Michelle Ferris and Lyndelle Higginson. The main competition has been between Burns and Watt this year, as the other two are better medal prospects in their sprint events. Watt, who became the Australian Champion in March this year will launch an immediate appeal after hearing the news.
In addition to her Australian title, she is also the number four ranked pursuit cyclist in the World this year behind Marion Clignet. Her partner, coach and manager, Carey Hall could not believe it, but does not know the reason she had been left out. There was no ride-off or selection race, so presumably Burns was chosen on the basis that she had ridden a faster time this year. Both Watt and Burns went under the 3.38.00 pre-qualifying time before the Nationals, but neither has cracked the 3.35.00 nominated by Cycling Australia in their selection criteria. However, Cycling Australia has also said that if no-one manages 3.35.00, then a decision may be made on who has the faster time.
Hall was also disappointed at the lack of consistency in the selection rules, as several of the riders in the men's track team, Brad McGee, Stuart O'Grady and Michael Rogers, had not ridden their respective qualifying times at all this year. This meant that riders such as Brent Dawson and Steven Wooldridge were left out, despite riding the team pursuit for Australia in a number of races this year.
Carey Hall and Kathy Watt's approach this year has been to race in the Track World Cups, however this has not been a stunning success after Watt was ill for the first two rounds. In Moscow (round 1), she placed 6th in the pursuit; in Cali she was not allowed to compete formally as there was only one rider per country. The spot went to Burns in order to give her some real competition and to qualify an extra rider for the World's; whilst in Mexico (round 3), she finished second in 3.41.377. Burns only rode in the Cali World Cup, finishing third in the pursuit (3.36.233) and winning the points race. Neither Burns nor Watt rode in Turin last weekend.
Australian Olympic team announced
23 of the 27 members of the Australian Road, Track and MTB teams were announced later today by Cycling Australia. There were hints given of those who were left out (see above), and today the complete Road, Mountain Bike, Men's Track Endurance and Women's Track squads were named. The men's four member sprint team is yet to be finalised.
The riders comprise arguably the strongest Olympic team Australia has fielded, however as mentioned, the appeals by riders left out have already started. In addition to Kathy Watt, appeals have been lodged by Brent Dawson, Steven Wooldridge, and Scott Sunderland, all of whom were omitted. These appeals will be heard by an independent tribunal within two weeks
The teams are as follows:
US Women's Olympic Road Team
The final two members of the United States Olympic road squad were named today, to join automatic qualifier Nicole Freedman (Charles Schwab) who won the US Olympic trials. Mari Holden (Timex) and Karen Kurreck (Edil Savino) were given the final berths ahead of some strong opposition. Holden, from Colorado Springs, is a six-time national road cycling champion and has had a very consistent year this year, winning and placing in most of the National Series events as well as winning the US Olympic time trial title for the past three years.
Karen Kurreck (Los Altos, California) is a past world champion in the time trial (in 1994) and is one of the most experienced US female cyclists. She finished second at the US Time Trial Championships this year and has competed in a total of seven World Championships.
The three combined with the speed of Nicole Freedman will comprise a strong unit when they contest the Sydney course which is very suited to power riders. This will be the first Olympic Games for each of them, and they are scheduled to compete in the International Thuringen Rundfahrt in Germany later this month (July 25-30). Following this they will ride the Grande Boucle Feminine Internationale (women's Tour de France - August 6-20) and the Killington (Vt.) Stage Race (September 2-4).