British face pre-Olympic gold test Down Under


The Olympic gold-winning credentials of track superpowers Great Britain faces a crucial test this week when traditional rivals Australia host the 2012 world championships.
Held over five, action-packed days at the Hisense Arena, the event will serve as a pre-London tune-up for most and a crucial stepping stone on the way to Olympic qualification for others.
By Sunday, there should be little room for doubt concerning Olympic selection. For those already assured of a place, what needs done to win Olmypic gold in five months time will remain the biggest concern.
Given their resounding success at the 2008 Olympics when they won seven of 10 track gold medals, most would expect Britain to be strutting towards their home Games in five months time.
However changes to the Olympic programme — the men and women now compete in the same five events and only one competitor is allowed per event — as well as efforts by rival teams to close the competitive gap mean Britain are no longer assured an easy ride.
Australia claimed only one medal, a sprint silver thanks to Anna Meares, in Beijing but are now confident of challenging in most of the 10 Olympic events.
“I don’t think I’m being unrealistic in saying that we’re in the hunt in most of the Olympic events,” Australia’s high performance director Kevin Tabotta said recently.
On Wednesday the Australian men’s team pursuit are expected to duel with Olympic champions and world record holders Britain as they aim for their third world title since Beijing.
Australia set a winning time of 3min 54.615sec, just outside the world record of 3:53.314, to beat Britain at the World Cup last month — a defeat that Britain are desperate to avenge, preferably in London.
“We will go to Melbourne to win, or at least to close the gap,” said Britain’s start man Ed Clancy after Great Britain finished in 3:56.330
In the women’s team sprint, the two-lap power event which will make its Olympic debut, Meares and partner Kaarle McCulloch are widely expected to come up against British duo Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish.
In London last month Meares and McCulloch beat their own world record, before it was then eclipsed by Pendleton and Varnish as the Brits took a surprise gold. While Britain and Australia are expected to stake claims for medals in the women’s team pursuit and omnium, other nations will be among the reckoning for the men’s and women’s sprint events of the sprint, keirin and team sprint.
Despite being a four-time Olympic champion and the reigning champion in the sprint, keirin and team sprint Sir Chris Hoy is duelling with England’s Jason Kenny for the sole sprint spot for London. The Scot underlined his Olympic ambitions in London last month when he won the sprint and keirin titles and took silver in the team sprint, but despite that success his place is not guaranteed.
“Obviously selection hasn’t been finalised for the British team yet so I’m looking forward to putting in another good performance, hopefully in the sprint, keirin and team sprint and try and stake my claim for selection,” said Hoy. As well as from Kenny, Hoy is expected to meet stiff opposition from Frenchman Gregory Bauge, Australian Shane Perkins and a strong German team that also has eyes on the three-man sprint title.