General Press Reports
Saturday, August 30, 1997, Flu stops gold pursuit in its tracksThis story was written by JACQUELIN MAGNAY and was published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
A flu-ravaged Australian foursome failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the teams pursuit at the world track cycling championships in Perth yesterday, the worst such outcome in a decade.
The result was inexplicable - the teams pursuit is the long-established flagship of the Australian team, with world championship successes in 1993 and 1995, and Olympic medals at every Games since 1984.
Team member Stuart O'Grady, who only 13 months ago collected the bronze medal in the event at the Atlanta Olympics, was shocked at the result and said it was "pretty unfortunate".
"It is the first time I have ever competed in the teams pursuit where we have not got a medal, so to not get to the quarter-finals is devastating," he said.
Australian head coach Charlie Walsh said sickness had played a part but some of the cyclists had not ridden to expectations.
Walsh withdrew the key member of the team, Tim Lyons, after the morning warm-up because he was extremely distressed with the effects of flu. His place was taken by Nigel Griggs.
Riding first in the qualifying rounds, the team of Baden Cooke, Griggs, O'Grady and Luke Roberts posted 4min 17.905s.
Only Poland, who finished a further three seconds behind, were slower.
The NSW team was seven seconds faster in winning the Australian title.
The national team last night was also six seconds slower than in the World Cup round in Adelaide last week. At one stage, O'Grady, clearly the strongest member, was doing two-lap turns of pace.
France, the fastest qualifiers yesterday, clocked 4:10.040.
Walsh said: "We moved quick enough early, a 2:08 split is not too bad, but obviously we fell away badly from there. The basics are there. I had the team on a 4:12 schedule, which we were quite capable of, and I thought we would actually go a bit quicker."
But the team obviously suffered from the raw inexperience of the young members, as well as losing Bradley McGee last month because of fatigue.
The result was a disappointment for O'Grady, who also performed well below par in the individual pursuit here.
He will now consider whether riding the road season with the GAN team in Europe in combination with track events is worthwhile, particularly for the Commonwealth Games next year and Sydney 2000.
"I don't want to make a decision now based on the disappointment of the last week," said O'Grady, who still hopes to make an impression in today's points race, another event in which he won an Olympic bronze medal.
Australian sprinters Darryn Hill and Sean Eadie have been drawn against each other in the first round of the sprint this morning.
Hill qualified fourth-fastest in the 200m trial to determine sprint seedings yesterday, clocking 10.486s, just behind the hot favourite Florian Rousseau (10.224), his French teammate Laurent Gane (10.446) and German Jan Van Eijden (10.455).
"I was happy with the way I felt but I clocked a time eight hundredths slower than the track record and I felt I was going faster ... but the board doesn't lie," Hill said.
Olympic silver medallist Marty Nothstein was fifth-fastest, while the Olympic champion Jens Fiedler was seventh-fastest.
NSW boat builder Anthony Peden was well pleased with his eighth seeding in 10.618s.
"I was very very happy to qualify eighth, it is a great feeling and I am pleased considering all the work I have done this year, " he said.
Eadie said he felt slightly sluggish following his efforts on Thursday night when he helped Australia win bronze in the Olympic sprint.
He was 21st overall yesterday in 10.818s.