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2006 Commonwealth Games - JR
Melbourne, Australia, March 16-26, 2006
March 16: Mens 1,000m time trial
Kersten against the odds
By Mal Sawford with additional reporting by Rob Jones
Australia's Ben Kersten, rated only a outside gold medal chance against the likes of Chris Hoy (Scotland) and Jason Queally (England) claimed a surprise second successive gold for the host nation after enduring an agonising wait for the top two ranked riders to start.
Scotland's Craig McLean was the early leader, after recording the fastest first lap and 500 metre (31.777) times on his way to posting a time of 1.02.983. Kersten started marginally slower and trailed by 0.156 seconds at the half way mark before flying home to move into the lead with his time of 101.815, just outside Hoy's Commonwealth record of 1.01.726.
Queally started quickly, and dipped fractionally under Kersten's 250 metre time, but drifted back out on his second lap, and despite matching the Aussie's speed for the final two laps couldn't regain his losses, finishing 0.034 off the pace.
With only the defending champion to ride, Kersten was guaranteed at least a silver medal. Hoy had trouble with the starting gate, needing to have his bike repositioned and the count down reset while he sat patiently on the banking. When the powerful Scot's machine was finally ready, Hoy exploded off the line and lead Kersten by almost 0.2 seconds after his opening lap. Hoy was a fraction further up at the half way mark, before fading dramatically over the final two laps to hand Kersten an emotional win.
Kersten clearly couldn't watch the final stages of Hoy's ride, and sat on the edge of his chair with his hands over his eyes. When the roar of the crowd delivered the unbelievable result, he collapsed to the floor before tearing an Australian flag from the pit wall and making his way through a swarm of well-wishers to begin a lap of honour – which he abandoned to clamber over the track fence to celebrate with the capacity crowd.
Before the presentation ceremony, Kersten told the waiting media it was the "best night of my life I think. It's all come to this moment, I'm glad it's over, it's unbelievable."
With his previous best performances fourth place finishes at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and 2005 World Championships, after being denied the chance to ride in Athens, Kersten admitted "I've had a tough career, and I've promised for a long time now to do something like this, but now I've done it, I've done what I promised to do for a long time and now the pressure's off.
"When I crossed the line I was very happy with third, I only wanted a medal, you can't control everything in the world and having a medal meant a lot to me, and then after Jason it was a silver medal, and I shut my eyes: I couldn't look. I was getting closer and closer, I couldn't believe it when he (Hoy) went past my time."
Asked whether going into the race as the underdog worked in his favour, Kersten replied, "In my mind I was the favourite. I knew that I needed to do a 1.01; that was the time I had to do and that was the time I was able to do. It was two tenths off my personal best but the track is a little slower than Sydney."
The winner admitted the home crowd support might have made the difference, saying, "If this race was in another country, I wouldn't have been able to dig so deep, with the time of training I missed out on. Just getting up there I thought I've got to do this or I won't be able to leave the stadium!" With one gold medal under his belt, Kersten is hungry for more success, saying "Now the pressure's off, and I can have fun with the keirin and the scratch race!"
Silver medallist Queally was happy with his efforts: "I did the best I could do; I just couldn't go any faster. The better man won on the night. I guess it sets us up good for the team sprint."
Hoy summed up his bronze medal ride as "a very frustrating ride. Nothing glaringly wrong, but it just wasn't there tonight and I faded in the last two laps and I got beaten by two better guys."
Hoy shrugged off suggestions that he might have lost some of his passion for the kilo since it was axed from the Olympic program. "I'm really committed to the kilo – if I wasn't I wouldn't do it. That's what makes it so disappointing."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
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