Commonwealth Games: Hayles fires a broadside at the 'egos' of track and field

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The Independent Online

England's cyclists kept pace with their swimmers here yesterday as they contributed two more golds in the team pursuit and the women's sprint, where Victoria Pendleton underlined her status as world champion.

Events in the velodrome and the pool are largely responsible for England's second place in the medal table behind the hosts. The challenge for the track and field athletes, whose programme gets under way today, is to match that level of performance - although Rob Hayles, who has now added team gold to his individual silver in the pursuit, seems less than convinced that they will rise to it.

Shortly after defeating the Australian quartet in conjunction with Rob Newton, Stephen Cummings and the individual champion Paul Manning, the 32-year-old Derbyshire rider questioned the attitude of some of the athletes, whom he accused of acting as if they owned the Athletes' Village.

"Obviously we've got some good athletes - when you look at the Olympics, they came away with three golds," Hayles said. "But when you consider how big the team is and how many events they actually compete in and the way they seem to act, some of them, I don't know.

"Maybe you need a bigger ego to do track and field. We're just happy getting on with what we are doing. We'll sit quietly in the corner and pop out and show what we can do on the track as opposed to talking about it. We're bloody good now and what we are doing is obviously working."

Pendleton, an ebullient and engaging 25-year-old from Hitchin, had spoken earlier in the week about the rising standards of the British team - all the home elements blend again next month for the World Championships in Bordeaux - and how she only felt at home once she had won her own world title. She maintained that level of performance in front of a partisan home crowd as she defeated the Australian who had beaten her to the sprint time trial title two days earlier, Anna Meares.

Four years ago in Manchester, Pendleton had an unhappy time of it on the track, being run into the top railings by Meares's sister, Kerrie. "That was a big learning experience," Pendleton said. "It was my first big championship and I didn't know what to expect. We are up against each other all the time in World Cups and World Championships. They are up there in the top four or five in the world. They are very aggressive riders, very good tactically and technically. So you've got to expect that. They ride like guys, to be honest."

Her bright demeanour dimmed a little when she considered her faltering performance following a win in the opening ride in the final. "After my second run I thought I'd messed it up," she said. "I had a few harsh words with myself and my coach." But a late surge on the outside saw her get her wheel to the white line before the Australian in the deciding sprint. Her feelings at the end she described as "less emotion, more relief".

Victoria's victory in Victoria was not watched by her mum, Pauline - at least, not live. "Mum gets so nervous about me racing she can't bear to watch," Pendleton said. "I've told her that I'll ring her and then she can watch it on TV when she knows the outcome."

And as the Cross of St George rose to the strains of Land of Hope and Glory, she appeared to be wiping away tears. Not so. Her make-up was apparently running, and her glasses - which she had put on for the ceremony - were smudged.

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