Australia with talent but work expected before Beijing

Katie Mactier working hard for Australia

Katie Mactier working hard for Australia (Image credit: CJ Farquharson)

Team Australia has work to do to rise to the level of Great Britain, who has dominated the competition in the Olympic events at this week's track World Championships; however, National Performance Director Shayne Bannan believes the "talent is there" for his riders to perform well in Beijing.

After day four of competition, all of the Olympic events had been contested with Australia claiming two bronze medals through the team pursuit and Katie Mactier in the individual pursuit, but the team has been off the mark – particularly compared with Great Britain, who have claimed nine gold medals (seven in Olympic events) and eclipsed Australia's team pursuit World Record mark.

"We're not far out of the medals but we do realise and understand that we have a fair amount of work to do, a fair amount of commitment to take place to achieve medal status," said Bannan. "I believe we do have enough time, the talent is there, they've really worked hard up until this point.

"[It's in] a few tactical areas and some riders are a little bit down on where they should be but the training that they've shown leading up to this has been world class so that tends to indicate that the possibility of them picking up is realistic."

However, Bannan noted he's been impressed with several of the performances this week, including the team pursuit who took bronze with a promising time on day two.

"On limited preparation and to get some of the older members back was quite pleasing with the time that they did," said Bannan. "We've had some good discussions with the team pursuit with regards to monitoring the preparation leading into the training camp prior to Beijing so I'm quite confident that can come together quite well."

Bannan is also hopeful Brad McGee can continue to improve after he placed fifth in the individual pursuit this week, but in a time ten seconds faster than his World Cup performance in Los Angeles. While youngster Cameron Meyer again proved he can be competitive with his more experienced rivals with his fourth place, for the second year running, in the points race.

"He didn't have the best of nights but his performances over the past twelve months show the character of the person so Cameron's looking toward a really good effort and result in Beijing," continued Bannan.

"Katie Mactier has been really consistent over the past five years and there is a percentage of improvement that needs to take place if she is going to be standing on top of the [podium] in Beijing, but we're definitely very pleased with her preparation."

The sprint events have highlighted the strength of Great Britain and France, with the Australia off the pace against the Northern Hemisphere speedsters.

"There have been flashes of brilliance, but there's also been areas that we really need to improve on so the objective is for the coaches and riders to have some good discussion about those areas."

Bannan rejected suggestions this championships has been a 'wake up call' for the Australian camp. "I think last year was probably the wake-up call and I think in most areas we're a little bit down on where we feel we should be, but not that far down that we can't do anything about it," he countered. "That's what we'll be working pretty hard towards.

"It's all about the process and if we get that right the results will come."

The men's keirin began well for Australia with Shane Kelly and Shane Perkins both qualifying through to the second round on their first attempt. Ryan Bayley did it the hard way, missing out in the first round, but winning his repechage heat to rejoin the competition. Unfortunately for the Australians, the draw for round two saw all three in the same heat with some tough competition.

"I said jokingly to 'Perko' (Perkins) I bet the 'Aussies' will all draw the same semi, and as it turned out we did," said Kelly, who is vying for selection in his fifth Olympic Games.

With Olympic selection at stake, team tactics were not an option for the Australian trio, but the combination of newly crowned sprint World Champion, Chris Hoy (GBr), former keirin World Champion Teun Mulder (Ned) and in-form Greek Christos Volikakis proved too strong, with Kelly fourth, Perkins fifth and Bayley sixth across the line and so out of the medal final.

"I misjudged and didn't do the exact ride I would have loved to and I paid for it in the end," commented Kelly, a four-time World Champion, who has one silver and two bronze medals from his previous four Olympic campaigns.

All three went into the ride off for seventh to twelfth places, where Kelly refocused to steam home by a clear winning margin to claim seventh place while Bayley finished ninth and Perkins snuck into eleventh after the relegation of the Malaysian starter. Kelly acknowledged his effort was a bid to regain some pride and to send a message to selectors.

"Definitely – I certainly have to make my presence felt and being the best finished 'Aussie' goes in my favour, but I would have loved to have been in the final," said Kelly whose passion for the Olympic dream remains as strong as ever.

Sunday's final day of competition will see Australians in action in all four events. Ben Kersten and Scott Sunderland will line up in the kilometre time trial, teenager Leigh Howard takes on the omnium, Kaarle McCulloch will contest the women's keirin and Belinda Goss will be out to score a medal in the women's scratch race.

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