Mark French makes last-minute attempt to qualify for Commonwealth Games

Australian track sprinter Mark French will be one of three riders in a deadline-pushing attempt at...

Australian track sprinter Mark French will be one of three riders in a deadline-pushing attempt at qualifying for Australia's Commonwealth Games team at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome this Saturday night.

Along with fellow Victorians Joel Leonard and Michael Ford, French will ride the Bankstown Sports Carnival, January 28, 2006, just three days before the January 31 cut-off for Games qualifying.

French is making a return to track cycling after being suspended and then cleared of doping allegations. At the time of his suspension, he created a huge controversy in Australia in 2004 with allegations of doping among his team-mates.

On January 21 French made a qualifying attempt at the Sid Patterson GP in Melbourne, but fell short of the mark, recording 10.8 seconds for the flying 200m, against a qualifying standard of 10.55. French's coach John Beasley, said the rider used up a lot of nervous energy before the attempt worrying about his form and the reception he would get from the spectators and fellow athletes. However, French was delighted with the rousing reception and appreciation he got from the crowd who got extremely vocal in supporting him throughout the nights racing.

Beasley and French both believe with the vocal support of a strong Sydney crowd and his ever improving form he can achieve the time needed to put him in the Australian squad, though a qualifying time does not automatically guarantee selection.

Australian keirin champion Joel Leonard is also aiming to make the Commonwealth Games team after his one minute, two second ride in the Victorian 1km Time Trial Championships two weeks ago was ruled invalid for team selection because the electronic timing start gate had to be manually operated.

Also competing are Michael Ford, twice a junior world champion on the track and current world record holder in the junior 3km individual pursuit; and Ben Kersten, Athens Olympian and Australian 1km time trial champion. Kersten has emerged in the last 18 months as Australia's new 'kilo king', most recently winning the 1km time trial at the Los Angeles World Cup this past weekend and posting a time that qualifies him for the Commonwealth Games team.

Joining these riders is an array of Australia's best female cyclists including Kate Bates, Rochelle Gilmore, Kial Stewart, Skye-Lee Armstrong, and Amanda Spratt.

The main carnival starts at 6.30pm with gates opening at 5.30pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for pensioners and kids less than 16 free.

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