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2006 Commonwealth Games - JR
Melbourne, Australia, March 16-26, 2006
Day 1 - March 16: Womens 500m time trial; Mens 1,000m time trial & 4,000m individual pursuit
Sprinters spring surprises on Aust coach
By Gerard Knapp
For the host nation, Australia was expected to once again dominate at the velodrome, as it had done in the previous Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2002. But the first night of action didn't start out as planned, as the two Australian representatives in the men's 4km individual pursuit – Mark Jamieson and Peter Dawson - fared somewhat less than expected.
Considering they were following in the wheeltracks of Brad McGee, the reigning Commonwealth champion (2002, 1998, 1994) who wanted to compete but was not released by his French ProTour team Française de Jeux, there was some pressure on the younger riders.
The disappointment came with the performance of Jamieson, a former junior world champion in the individual pursuit, who put in a time that was some eight seconds off his best. "If I could put it down to one thing, I think it was the nervousness and excitement that overcame him," said Australia's head cycling coach, Shayne Bannan.
"He certainly didn't perform to expectations. We were thinking that qualifying say in fourth or fifth was realistic, but for them to come in at seventh and tenth (fastest times) wasn't what we expected.
"I think both of them went out a bit too hard, but the English and New Zealand riders are genuinely world-class, so we knew it was going to be a tough event."
However, the mood changed in just the following event, with the remarkable Anna Meares once again seemingly inspiring the whole Australian track squad with another stand-out performance to win the women's 500m TT.
As she had done at Athens in 2004, Meares took out the title with a record-breaking time and collecting the bronze was her elder sister Kerrie.
But the major upset of the evening came with Ben Kersten's amazing ride in the kilo, where he finally confirmed the potential of what many in Australian track cycling have been saying for years.
Bannan admitted Kersten's win was a surprise. "Very much so, because if you look at who he was up against, in Chris Hoy and Jason Queally, the Olympic champions from Athens and Sydney, plus Craig MacLean, then the best we would have expected was third, and I think Ben also expected that.
"But Ben has worked really hard for this, and it's a real credit to him, his coach Gary Sutton and NSWIS (New South Wales Institute of Sport)."
Bannan also praised the efforts of sprint coach, Martin Barras, and endurance coach, Ian Mackenzie, and admitted, "we have come into this competition under a fair bit of pressure."
He said the first evening of track racing "had started out fairly average for us, but then Anna and Kerrie Meares, who are such great ambassadors for the sport, and then Ben in the kilo … well, the efforts of those three have really lifted all of us."
Team pursuit - some work to do
The Australians will need motivation by the truckload if they are to match the resurgent English squad.
It was an all-England sweep of the podium in the men's 4km pursuit, with Paul Manning, Rob Hayles and Steven Cummings taking out the gold, silver and bronze, respectively. The English head into the team pursuit as red-hot favourites to knock the Australians off their Commonwealth Games perch.
The team pursuit is one of the most hotly contested Australia-England sporting battles, whether it's at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games, or the world championships. Invariably, the two nations end up riding off against each other for the gold medal.
As Bannan admitted, somewhat unsympathetically, Australia is fielding "our second-string pursuiters, with riders like McGee and Roberts being unavailable" and endurance coach Mackenzie has "got a fair bit of work to do."
"But we also have Ash Hutchinson and Steve Wooldridge, and they are both fairly experienced campaigners, who should settle them down a bit."
The other squad that is not to be discounted is New Zealand, and the English team management recently stated that the winning team will need to post a sub-four minute time, and Bannan agreed.
"I think it's possible they'll go under (four minutes) in qualifying for sure. With the changes in the rules, qualifying almost becomes like the final, because there's no second round so the qualifying time determines who goes into the gold medal ride-off."
Bannan didn't reveal the best times the Australians had been posting in training – "you can tell them we're doing 3.55s all the time if you like", he joked – but believed "there is a possibility they will go close" to posting a time under the four-minute benchmark.
"But we'll go in as underdogs this time, and it's going to be a really good competition."
Women's 500m time trial 1 Anna Meares (Australia) 34.326 (52.438 km/h) (Games Record) 2 Victoria Pendleton (England) 34.662 3 Kerrie Meares (Australia) 35.210 4 Fiona Carswell (New Zealand) 35.635 5 Elizabeth Williams (New Zealand) 36.104 Men's 1000m time trial 1 Ben Kersten (Australia) 1.01.815 (58.238 km/h) 2 Jason Queally (England) 1.01.849 3 Chris Hoy (Scotland) 1.02.071 4 Craig Maclean (Scotland) 1.02.983 5 Hayden Godfrey (New Zealand) 1.03.919 6 Cameron Mackinnon (Canada) 1.05.374 7 Mohamad Hafiz Sufian (Malaysia) 1.06.011 8 Yannik Morin (Canada) 1.07.621 9 Percival Epeli Navolo (Fiji) 1.23.766 10 Vinesh Lal (Fiji) 1.28.113 11 Rakeshwar Lal (Fiji) 1.29.337 Men's 4000m individual pursuit Qualification 1 Paul Manning (England) 4.21.801 (55.003 km/h) 2 Rob Hayles (England) 4.21.837 3 Jason Allen (New Zealand) 4.22.941 4 Steven Cummings (England) 4.25.570 5 Mark Ryan (New Zealand) 4.26.773 6 Michael Hutchinson (Northern Ireland) 4.28.862 7 Mark Jamieson (Australia) 4.30.399 8 Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) 4.30.747 9 Zack Bell (Canada) 4.31.831 10 Peter Dawson (Australia) 4.34.269 11 Rupert Rheeder (South Africa) 4.40.078 12 Amirrudin Jamaludin (Malaysia) 4.49.106 Finals For bronze 3 Steven Cummings (England) 4.24.767 (54.387 km/h) 4 Jason Allen (New Zealand) 4.30.319 For gold and silver 1 Paul Manning (England) 4.23.799 (54.587 km/h) 2 Rob Hayles (England) 4.28.616