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Britania’s rule of the boards will see a sharp challenge in London from Australia following an impressive performance during track racing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.
Australia hogged the podium, winning 12 of 14 gold medals contested in four exciting days of racing that provide a telling preview that the Aussie rebuilding effort following its humiliation against Great Britain in Beijing is already bearing fruit.
“We’re on track for London,” said a content Shayne Bannan, the head coach of the Australian team moments after Cameron MEYER won gold in the men’s scratch race to close out track competition. “More important than 12 medals were the five Commonwealth Games records we set. Our goal here was world record times.”
Two years ago, Great Britain stomped eternal arch rival in Beijing, winning seven of 10 gold medals on the velodrome. Australia was skunked in the gold medal column and walked away from China wondering what happened after taking home only one track medal, with Anna Meares earning silver in the sprint behind Pendleton.
Australia vowed to rebuild and shook up the coaching staff and has begun to nurture young talent, such as triple gold medalist Cameron Meyer, who won gold in the points and scratch races as well as helping set a new Commonwealth Games mark in the team pursuit.
“We know the Brits are going to be strong in London, but we are going to bring a strong team,” Meyer said. “I am mixing the road and the track, but the big goal for us is London. This experience here will help our confidence.”
“Great Britain,” of course, wasn’t even present at the Delhi Games. Not only were top stars such as Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendelton giving Delhi a miss, Great Britain fractures into regional teams during the quadrennial Commonwealth Games competition, so the heart of the team was split between Scotland, North Ireland, England, Wales and even the Isle of Man.
Nothing can be taken away from Australia’s impressive stampede on the boards.
Anna Meares was the lone former Olympic gold medalist on what was a young and ambitious Australian team.
Meares did her part, winning all three events she participated in to win golds in women’s Sprint, Team Sprint and 500m TT.
“I’m really glad I came here. I finally won the Sprint medal, something’s that eluded me so far at the Commonwealth Games,” said Meares, a 500m TT gold medalist in 2004. “This is a strong team and these young riders were only get better before London. We can be optimistic.”
Others shining were Megan Dunn, a bright-eyed pixie who won gold in women’s points and scratch races.
Scott Sunderland thundered to gold in the kilo, the team sprint and silver in the sprint behind Shane Perkins, who flipped the bird to judges after he was relegated during Keirin qualifying. Perkins was later removed from the gold-medal winning sprint team by embarrassed Australian officials.
In fact, the Keirin – won by Malaysian Josiah Ng after teammate Azizul Awang was robbed of victory by a horrible judges’ call – and the women’s individual pursuit were the only golds Australia didn’t win.
Track racing went out without a hitch despite a scandal-laden lead up to track cycling competition.
Cobras were found in the tennis venue, the athlete’s village was deemed “unlivable” and a pedestrian bridge collapsed a week before the games, casting doubt on India’s ability to pull off such a large and complicated event.
A stunning opening ceremonies helped change the tone of the headlines and Australia’s domination of the boards became one of the top stories.
India fielded its first track cycling team since 1978 and managed some memorable results, including 10th in the women’s points race and fourth in the team pursuit (after the fifth team entry, Wales, was disqualified for two false starts).
Now cycling changes gears for two days of road cycling. Central Delhi should be even more chaotic as a 13km circuit course will force road closures around such iconic sights as the Indian Gate and Connaught Place.
Mark Cavendish is favored to take gold – this time for the Isle of Man. Great Britain will have to wait until 2012 London to have a united front yet again.