From Kew Bowl to Glasgow gold

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014
Eddie Dawkins
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
GOLD STANDARD: Eddie Dawkins has already won gold in the men's sprint race. But can he win an individual medal too?

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Racing on the crumbling concrete banking of Kew Bowl, Eddie Dawkins didn't look like a champion.

Some may not realise that the home of Southland cycling wasn't always an indoor colossus but a grey dinosaur of a track that now hides behind a big wooden fence and a bottle store.

Kew Bowl was a place where champions were created and legends made. And there were plenty of both over the years.

I started covering track cycling at Kew Bowl, enduring frigid nights once the sun had set during the annual New Year carnival.

Dawkins was one of hundreds of kids who were encouraged into the sport by the likes of the sport's doyen Laurie Tall.

You wouldn't have picked him out of the crowd, but this week the crowd at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome rose to its feet and the New Zealand anthem played for Dawkins and his fellow team sprinters Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster.

For me, it was a poignant moment.

A sport that I had no background in when I first started writing about it nearly 15 years ago had taken me to the other side of the world and provided me with a chance to watch a rider I had been writing about for years achieve Commonwealth Games gold.

This event is not the pinnacle in sport - the New Zealand team are already world champions with rainbow jerseys to show for it.

If they keep tracking the way they are, then they will be strong contenders for Olympic gold in Rio in two years.

But the Commonwealth Games is one of those events that helps to deliver smaller sports to a wider sporting public.

The hardworking people within Southland cycling who played parts big and small in Eddie Dawkins' development will take plenty of satisfaction in his achievements this week.

Maybe there's another boy or girl watching this week who will seek to emulate what he's achieved. The truth of the matter is that there's no reason they can't.

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