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Photo ©: Bettini

The current time in Athens is 16:21 on September 22, 2014

28th Olympic Games - JO

Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004

News for Wednesday, August 11, 2004

British trackies expect medals

Britain is fielding perhaps its strongest-ever team for the track events at the Athens Olympics, and its riders expect to bring home some precious metal souvenirs.

Bradley Wiggins, Britain's strongest hope in the 4000m pursuit, told icwales.co.uk, "Really, this team is going to Athens with a possibility of bringing back seven or eight medals."

However, one of those medals will not come from a successful defence of his 2000 Olympic kilo title by Jason Queally. Queally's team-mates Craig Maclean and world champion Chris Hoy and will represent Britain in that event, leaving Queally the hope of a consolation medal as part of the team sprint squad.

"I had intended to defend my Olympic title and also compete in the team sprint and hopefully come away with a gold medal there," Queally told the Daily Telegraph. "Unfortunately, I won't be defending my Olympic title, which is going to be difficult. But I have got a good chance of coming away with a team medal.

"At the end of the day, I knew somebody, someday, would go quicker than myself. Unfortunately for me, it was two of my team-mates. Chris will compete in the kilo with Craig."

Queally added that the team was in a very upbeat mood. "It's just great being involved with a Great Britain team that has a chance of a few more gold medals this time. It's exciting stuff," he said. "The spirit in the team is very good and very positive. Things are going well for most people, and hopefully we will come away with more medals than we did in Sydney."

Rast replaces Camenzind

The Swiss Olympic Association (SOA) has nominated Gregory Rast to replace Oscar Camenzind in the Swiss Olympic team. Rast has already arrived in Athens according to the SOA. Camenzind was withdrawn from the team on Monday after testing positive for EPO. He has admitted using the drug and retired from cycling.

USAC tips Hincapie as best hope

The US team began arriving in Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games yesterday, and USA Cycling is tipping George Hincapie as the country's best medal chance in the road race.

The men's road team comprises Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney. USAC spokesman Andy Lees says it's, "a strong team of talented veterans. The unpredictable nature of a single day road race and the smaller team sizes offers a reasonable chance for medals."

Pointing out that the course is "technical with narrow roads and sharp turns", Lee adds "if the climbs aren't long enough to create significant selections in the field of 145 men, then the tricky and twisty route may lend a hand in splitting the field."

The favourite from the US ranks then, is "Hincapie, with his reputation as a solid single day rider and fast finisher," says Lee, "but given the nature of the course, Julich, Hamilton and Leipheimer can escape from a small group of breakaway riders and rely on their tenacious style to carry them to a medal."

Mactier chases the dream

While many of Australia's Olympians have worked all their lives to get to Athens this week, a trio of women cyclists took the fast lane to the Games.

Katie Mactier is a medal chance in the individual pursuit after riding the event for a little over a year and Oenone Wood is a gold medal favourite in the road race and a chance in the time trial with only three years competitive cycling behind her. Wood's road race teammate Olivia Gollan, 30, is also a late comer, interrupting her career as a teacher to win the national road series in her first year of serious competition in 2001. The third member of the road race team, Sara Carrigan is a relative veteran at 23, having been a reserve for the 2000 Olympics.

Wood, also 23, credited the Australian system of support from the state institutes of sport and the AIS for the identification and development of women cyclists in what is still a fledgling area of the sport.

"I certainly don't think I would have imagined myself in this position a couple of years ago," Wood said. "Sara got into the sport a bit younger than us but for Liv and me, it's sort of the same situation - not long in the sport and a quick progression into the national team. I think that reflects the level of support that we get, not only from our state academies but also when you come into the AIS program, you're really supported. And everything's there for you to succeed, that's how it allows people to come into the program and quickly make their way to the top level."

After only four months training on the track, Mactier, 28, won silver in last year's world championships in Stuttgart in the 3000m individual pursuit against the Netherlands' queen of world cycling Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel. Mactier took silver again this year to New Zealand's world record breaker Sarah Ulmer and is a distinct gold medal hope.

Mactier abandoned athletics when she left school at 17 and took up triathlon for fun in her 20s while she studied and then followed a career in advertising. But her feats in the triathlon prompted an offer of a cycling scholarship from the Victorian Institute of Sport which she took up at the age of 24 and set off on the road to Athens, which only came into view last year.

"I am a lucky thing," Mactier said. "Ever since my debut in Stuttgart it's been the dream I've been chasing. The last 12 months have been one-dimensional."

© AAP

Athens track cycling sold out

Although overall Olympic ticket sales in Athens are yet to reach the "50 percent sold" mark, all six days of track cycling between August 20-25 have been sold out. The Athens track seats 3638 people.

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