Tactics key to individual sprint for Eddie Dawkins
Having raised his hand for a start line blunder which cost his New Zealand sprint team-mates dearly, Eddie Dawkins suddenly felt bulletproof again.
The big Southlander returns to the Olympic velodrome tonight (NZT) in the individual sprint after a rollercoaster opening night which ended in a respectable fifth placing for the young sprint team. Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Simon van Velthooven broke their own national record and pushed eventual silver medallists France all the way before bowing out.
Dawkins was near inconsolable after his slow start saw the team qualify seventh fastest, booking them a meeting with the powerful French team. After going outside and "smacking my head against a brick wall," all was well again after the team made amends with a record-breaking effort of 43.495 seconds which augured well for the future.
"I had a little bit of an EMO moment, but I'm back so it's all good," Dawkins said.
With just one rider per country permitted in the individual sprint, Dawkins got the nod.
He finished seventh in the sprint at the world championships in Melbourne in April, clocking a national record 9.963sec. He knows at least that time is required to progress to the business end at a red-hot velodrome which saw several world records tumble on opening night.
"The top five or six are going to ride under 10sec and it's going to come down to tactics and who's got the best head on the day," Dawkins said.
Sprint coach Justin Grace was disappointed only one rider per country was allowed in the sprint. Mitchell, just 21, had a blinder on opening night, getting a flying start in both rides and beating French powerhouse Gregory Bauge in the first leg. Still, Dawkins was expected to threaten the podium.
"Our hopes are pretty high. We've come here to take away medals. All the riders have ridden PBs in the last week so we know they've got good form," Grace said.
"We've got to go out there and race smart. The races we've got left there's a lot of thinking involved so put yourself in the right place, a little bit of luck and anything can happen."
Van Velthooven will ride in his top event, the keirin, on Tuesday against the legendary Chris Hoy who will chase his sixth Olympic gold medal after his sprint team smashed the world record in winning gold yesterday in 42.600sec.
Dawkins at least won't face Hoy, who was overlooked for Great Britain's solitary sprint place for Jason Kenny.
Grace was excited about the future for his sprint squad, who were formed with a view to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"All the guys are 21 or 22 so we've got a long way to go. We'll let the boys grow up a bit more and once they've turned into big strapping men it's all systems go."
Central to that will be rising star Mitchell who made the most of his only night of Olympic action.
"When we got together we were targeted as a Rio team we didn't really think we'd make it to London. But we fast tracked and it was unreal. We saw ourselves as medal prospects. To walk away with fifth and a personal best time we can't ask for much more than that."