Staff in mood to bury Athens disaster

Jamie Staff aims to put Olympic disappointment firmly behind him when he goes for gold in the keirin...

Jamie Staff aims to put Olympic disappointment firmly behind him when he goes for gold in the keirin and team sprint events in Melbourne this week. The 32 year-old from Ashford in Kent was reigning world keirin champion when he was controversially disqualified from the event at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.

So great was the disappointment for the former world and European BMX champion that he didn't ride a bike for six months after the Games and considered quitting the sport altogether before his coach persuaded him to get back on the saddle.

"The Olympics was a weird experience for me, not what I expected at all," said Staff. "I still think they robbed me because they didn't even give me a warning. I started working for a carpenter friend of mine in America, but I guess the novelty of getting up at 4.30am every day just rubbed off after a while."

Staff returned to action in style, helping Britain to a world team sprint title in Los Angeles last year, and now believes he's on course for a medal here. "I'm over Athens now, it's not a motivation for me here," he said.

Staff switched to track cycling in 2002 because BMX was not an Olympic sport and was soon winning Commonwealth medals in Manchester - a silver in the team sprint and a bronze in the 1km time trial. But Staff claims he didn't know what he was doing back then. "I didn't feel like a track cyclist," he said. "I do now. I enjoy it more now I'm more experienced."

Staff says his main focus in Melbourne will be the team sprint event, but before then he'll be going for gold in the keirin. "I'm really happy with my progress this year," he said. "I definitely think I've got a good shot."

Staff also praised the progress of his team sprint team-mate Matt Crampton, at 19, the baby of the cycling squad. "Matt's young and coming on really well," said Staff. "He's definitely looking good."

Crampton will ride third in the team, behind Staff and Jason Queally, and admits he'll feel the heat of responsibility for having to bring home the gold. "There is a little extra pressure," says Crampton, from Manchester. "But I've really stepped up a gear in recent months. My times have been really good and I've built up my strength."

The keirin is on Friday 17 March in Melbourne's Multi Purpose Venue, with the team sprint on Sunday 19 March.

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