There's a new kid on the block in Team GB colours at this year's Track World Championships, which started earlier today in Melbourne, Australia. And the team's totem, Sir Chris Hoy, has stated that his presence could make a real difference to their prospects of gold in the three-man sprint both here and in the 2012 Olympic Games this summer.
German-born Philip Hindes raced for the county of his birth as a youngster, but has elected to represent Great Britain at senior level after meeting eligibility criterea becuase of his English father. Hoy has been impressed with what he has seen of the 19-year-old and feels that he could prove to be the missing link at the head of the three-man sprint team.
Inconsistent leadout performances by the likes of Ross Edgar and Matt Crampton have meant that Team GB have been vulnerable in the last couple of years since the retirement of Jamie Staff, who, together with Hoy and Jason Kenny, won gold in the event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Despite his tender years, Hoy feels that Hindes is improving at a rate of knots and could yet force his way into team boss David Brailsford's plans for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
"Philip's improving at a rapid rate and if he performs well he could be in the running for the Olympics," Hoy told BBC Sport.
"If [Philip can give us] a good start then with Jason being one of the fastest guys in the world over the second lap, and myself for the third lap, there's a good chance we could challenge for the gold medal. Philip's strength is his acceleration - his start is really fast. He's still off the pace of the best guys in the world, say the times of Jamie Staff at the last Olympics or Germany's Rene Enders at the moment, but not by much.
"The crucial thing is he's improving all the time. The other guys have been around for years and make very small improvements, if at all, whereas he's taking two-tenths off his time every month or so."
Hoy revealed that the team have welcomed Hindes with open arms as the youngster tries to immerse himself in all things British following his switch of allegiance.
"You've got to remember his dad's British, it's not as if it's somebody who's visited the country a couple of times or has it on residency," Hoy said. "He's got a German accent but his humour's pretty British. The regulations are there and if you're eligible, you're eligible. We're of the opinion it's fine and he's going to help the team. He feels British to us now.
"He has been living in Germany all his life, but he's moved across to a completely different lifestyle, staying at the academy in a flat with the rest of the guys, learning to cook for himself. He has English as a second language and it's actually remarkably good. He reminds me of when I was younger in the team and everything was new and exciting. It's great fun having him in the team."
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