Olympics: Sprint lads ready to muscle up for Rio

By Dylan Cleaver

Ethan Mitchell (left) and Eddie Dawkins are determined to gain extra bulk to challenge in Rio Pictures / Mark Mitchell
Ethan Mitchell (left) and Eddie Dawkins are determined to gain extra bulk to challenge in Rio Pictures / Mark Mitchell

A shocking start and a strong finish - New Zealand's young sprint team confirmed their talent but also their inexperience in London.

On an astonishing opening night at the velodrome, New Zealand, or more precisely, Eddie Dawkins, blew their qualifying run when he failed to latch on to a flying start from Ethan Mitchell.

After a spot of self-flagellation, Dawkins recovered to ride an excellent second lap in their ride-off with France.

They lost, but in posting a national record time of 43.495s, they demonstrated the potential that has the coaches at BikeNZ so excited.

"It's pretty unreal to be fifth at our first Olympics," said lead-out rider Ethan Mitchell. "It's all positive looking to our future.

"When we got tagged as a Rio team, we didn't really think we would make it to London.

It was unreal how we fast-tracked. To walk away with fifth and personal-best time, we can't really ask for anything more than that. For the next four years, it's all about progression and we are going to show it to the world."

It's bold talk, especially when Great Britain, anchored by Sir Chris Hoy, demonstrated just how far they have to go, recording a phenomenal 42.600s to win the final against France.

"We are a team with an average age of 22 so to compete against some of these guys - Sir Chris Hoy is at his fourth Olympics - to come out here and to show we are on par with some of these best teams in the world bodes well for a good future," Mitchell said.

"If we can knuckle down and keep progressing the way we are 2016 is going to be a really good year."

It's a sentiment shared by national sprint coach Justin Grace.

"They didn't quite get the start we wanted and in this game every thousandth of a second counts so we just had to come back out and lay it all down - there was a good chunk off our PB so we can walk away with our heads high."

Grace said they had learned a lot over the past two years, including techniques they had not had time to implement before London.

"We will start working on a few of those things and let the boys grow up a bit more. Once they have turned into big, strapping men, then we will be all systems go."

It's not all over for the sprinters. Dawkins will ride the individual, but is not expected to challenge for a medal. Though it's a different story in the keirin where Simon van Velthooven has established himself as a quality exponent of the discipline.

- NZ Herald

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