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Focus on team sprint and kilo in India
Australian sprinter Scott Sunderland is pleased with his preparations for next month's Commonwealth Games in New Dehli, India, as the team intensifies training for its biggest meet since the Beijing Olympics.
Whilst only two of the current team members - Daniel Ellis and Anna Meares - made the trip to the last Olympics two years ago in the Chinese capital, Sunderland has become one of the squad's mainstays post-Beijing.
"My preperation for the Commonwealth Games has been coming along extremely well; I've put down some good times and lifted some good numbers in the gym so it's nice to know the legs are coming along," Sunderland recently told Cyclingnews.
Sunderland has mainly ridden the kilometre time trial in the past, although the axing of this blue riband event means he's changed focus and will now concentrate on the team sprint in India.
"I'd have to say an event I'm aiming for would have to be team sprint now with the new list of events at the Olympics - it's the main starting event. But second would be the kilometre time trial, I'd really like to nail a solid performace at the [Commonwealth] games in that event," he explained.
Terrorist attacks - including the planned, deadly rampage by extremists in Mumbai last year - and another incident in recent days has many worried for the safety of athletes travelling to India for the Commonwealth Games, believing westerners will be targeted by extremist groups. Sunderland says he's putting his trust in security briefings made by the Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA).
"There has been a lot of hype on that subject, but the ACGA has been providing us with information on the security with advice and we have also been briefed," he said. "I believe they wouldn't send us if they didn't believe it wasn't safe. Also, if look back on any major Games there has always been security concerns and this is no different."
So with the bulk of the preparation for the Games completed, how is the morale within the Australian camp, which boasts many riders under the age of 25? "The atmosphere within the group is great like it always is, everyone is pushing each other to deliver more out of traininig and the morale is good," said Sunderland.
And as for the pressure of a big meet? The most experienced member of the group is Anna Meares, who is still only 27, and many of Australia's riders have never competed at a competition this big. "I think the squad will be able to handle the pressure," said Sunderland. "Yes, it's a young group but all the riders are experienced and no stranger to international competition."
As for his own events, Sunderland will be up against some of the cream of the world's sprinting crop, although he's highly aware of what lies ahead. "There will be a very solid mens field, with all the riders from Australia, England, Scotland, New Zealand and Canada. All the big names are very experinced so it should make for a very good meet," he said.