Mission Impossible is nearing reality at the velodrome for Team GB after another night of gold success
It’s not official, but as the track racing program reached its mid-way point today, Mission Impossible - GB’s Olympic cycling squad beating Beijing’s total of eight gold medals, four silvers and two bronzes - is now closer than ever to becoming reality.
Pre-Games, British cycling officials had estimated between six to ten medals were feasible. But with five golds and one silver and a bronze already in the bag, that target has definitively been passed. And, amazingly, Britain’s clinching four - and perhaps five - golds in all five remaining velodrome events is now far from inconceivable. Should the dream result of ten cycling golds be achieved, it would set Britain ahead of its ‘dream Beijing result’ with space to spare - something which British Cycling had constantly insisted since 2008 was not feasible.
To be fair, given that such a total domination of one sporting discipline is very rare at an Olympic level - in cycling you have go back to the USA’s taking all seven track golds in 1904 (four with one rider, Marcus Hurley, who also took a bronze) or Britain taking five out of six golds in 1908 for a historical precedent - perhaps they were right to be cautious. Furthermore, since 2008 there has been a major restructuring of the Olympic cycling track program to contend with, potentially the most damaging to Britain being the removal of events like the Individual Pursuit where GB took two golds, a silver and a bronze in Beijing.
Yet of all the top cycling nations, Britain appears to have handled all the changes the best.
And on the 2012 Olympic track events so far, barring the women’s team sprint where Vicky Pendleton and Varnish had that mistimed changeover that led to relegation, Britain have nailed gold each time.
But if those wins look deceptively simple, as Team Principle Dave Brailsford says in fact it is a lengthy, subtle path to the top.
“You put the foundations in place and...with about a year to go you’ve still got to feel that you haven’t actually put your foot to the floor,” Brailsford explained.
“At the World Championships (in April), you’ve got to feel - the staff, the riders - that there’s that bit more to give.
“If you’re full gas already then you are in trouble...then you have to keep that momentum all the way to the Games.”
How that momentum is maintained has no single explanation. But insiders believe GB’s policy of using their best equipment and material - like the famous Beijing skinsuits which were shredded after the Games - only for the Olympics themselves, may give their athletes a psychological and physical boost of important proportions.
A second key strategy is to program the GB athletes training schedule to ensure they reach their four year physical peak at the Games themselves. And a third is the ‘tapering down’ process, where the athletes ease back as long as six weeks before the Games, far earlier than is traditional. That way come July, they are fresh and raring to go - with eight World Records already broken, let alone the medals, ample proof that here in London Tram GB have raised the bar yet again.
The next gold could come tomorrow given Men’s Omnium contender Ed Clancy is currently excellently placed, lying fourth after three events and with two of his strongest suits, the individual pursuit and 1 km time trial yet to come. Meanwhile Beijing sprint silver medallist Jason Kenny is already steadily knocking out the opposition in the elimination rounds en route to Monday’s final.
As for Tuesday, GB competitors Sir Chris Hoy, Laura Trott and Vicky Pendleton are all odds-on favourites for doubling the gold medals they have already garnered in 2012. Should they do so - and it would be wrong to take that for granted, tempting though it may be - then even the Beijing track gold rush would fade in comparison.
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