Split second slip sinks NZ sprinters
Big sprinter Eddie Dawkins wished the ground would swallow him up.
He felt his blunder at the start cost his New Zealand sprint team dearly in their Olympic qualifying ride today, and wanted to be anywhere but the cauldron of the packed, heaving velodrome.
"I had a bit of a 'mare. The boys are real modest when they say it was a team fault, but it was all my fault, I take full responsibility for it," said Dawkins after the track sprint team finished fifth to narrowly miss a chance at a medal ride.
"My mind slipped for a split second and that's all it takes for Ethan [Mitchell] to get away on you.
"I had to go outside and smack my head against a brick wall to get it all out.
"I came back in, put my chin up and puffed my chest out and went as hard as I could out of the gates, just go nuts.
"We produced a national record, and fifth at our first Olympics is pretty bloody good."
In their qualifying ride, Dawkins was slow out of the blocks, Ethan Mitchell got a flyer and it looked ugly.
Their time of 44.175 seconds was seventh fastest, and booked them a meeting with the powerful French who qualified second.
The young team, average age 22, had to gather themselves for an all or nothing performance to chase a medal.
Mitchell, the youngest at 21, flew out again and beat French flyer Gregory Bauge on the first lap.
Dawkins, then van Velthooven, finished strongly, but France were too good, recording 42.991sec to New Zealand's 43.495.
It still beat their national record of 43.742 set at the Melbourne world championships in April.
"I've come here in my best condition; I think we all have. It's my job to go out there and get the team off to a good start,” Mitchell said.
"I felt I rode pretty well and we all put it together in that second ride. To walk away with a PB... it's pretty unreal to be fifth in my first Olympics."
France were beaten by Great Britain in the final, the Chris Hoy-inspired hosts sizzling in for a world record of 42.600.
The New Zealand performance augers well for the future. Two of the team are in action later in the schedule, with Dawkins in the individual sprint which starts late tomorrow (NZT) and van Velthooven in his preferred keirin on Tuesday.