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By Jean-François Quénet in Beijing, China French sprint sensation Kevin Sireau is expected to be one...
By Jean-François Quénet in Beijing, China
French sprint sensation Kevin Sireau is expected to be one of the Olympic Games track stars at the Laoshan velodrome in Beijing, China this week. The youngster doesn't believe his British rivals will be the force they were at the World Championships in Manchester, England earlier this year.
Sireau is the team sprint World Champion, along with starter Gregory Baugé and finisher Arnaud Tournant - who will be contesting his final Olympics this week if deemed fit. Sireau was second to Britain's Chris Hoy in the individual sprint at March's World Championships, but isn't concerned about having to take on Hoy for gold.
"I'm not afraid of anybody," he said. "I have beaten Hoy before and I'll beat him again. The only one I've not beaten yet is Theo Bos - I've only competed against him once.
"We are able to equal the Brits here," he added. "I hope they won't perform as well as the World Championships…they were at home [in Manchester]."
The 21 year-old is aiming for victory in the team sprint first. It will be the first event at the velodrome on Friday, August 15.
"It's my number one goal," he said. "In the individual sprint, I think I still have a room for improvement. I only want to think about winning anyway. It will be even more stressful than at the World Championships.
"So far, I don't feel the pressure," he added. "It was very emotional to be at the opening ceremony and I love to stay at the Olympic village, but I don't see myself as a star of the Olympics at all."
Sireau is so new to track cycling he has no memory of his famed predecessors Florian Rousseau- and Tournant's exploits. "Four years ago I had no interest in the Olympic Games, I didn't even watch it and I never did when I was a kid," said Sireau, who hails from the center of France.
A former football player, Sireau switched to cycling to take up an individual sport, he said. "As soon as I was initiated to track cycling, I discovered how exciting sprinting is and how much adrenaline it brings," added Sireau.
After the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 Sireau started taking cycling seriously. He moved to the pôle France of Hyères, in the south of the country, under the advice of Daniel Morelon. Sireau's arrival at the highest level marked the revival of the team sprint for France, a specialty won by the riders in blue, white and red for many years in a row.
France collected only two medals four years ago in Athens, and neither were gold.