Kersten, Meares put Australia on track - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kersten, Meares put Australia on track

By Roger Vaughan And Paul Mulvey 16/03/2006 09:42:44 PM Comments (0)

Ben Kersten ripped the monkey off his back and Anna Meares overcame a crippling back injury to give the Australian Commonwealth Games cycling campaign a stunning start.

Kersten, also nursing a bad back, caused a massive upset in the 1km time trial when he beat defending Commonwealth and Olympic champion Chris Hoy of Scotland and Sydney Olympic gold medallist Jason Queally of England.

A few minutes earlier, Meares had won Australia's first gold medal of the Games when she set a Commonwealth record of 34.326 seconds to win the 500m time trial.

As parents Anthony and Marilyn looked on amid a big family contingent, older sister Kerrie also won the bronze medal.

Anna gave her gold medal to Marilyn and Kerrie handed the bronze to Anthony after the victory ceremony.

But while the Meares sisters were outstanding, Kersten's performance was unexpected.

"That means the world to me, I've never won a gold medal in international competition," he said.

"That's the end of the kilo for me - I just wanted to get a medal so much, but I never thought it would be gold.

"My whole career has always promised for this moment, now it's complete and I can just relax and carry on with the job."

Kersten is among many riders who will abandon the kilo event because it is no longer an Olympic event, as is the case with the 500m.

Before now, 24-year-old Kersten had never won a medal at a world championships, Olympics or Commonwealth Games.

He just missed out on selection for Sydney and was caught in a massive selection controversy in the lead-up to Athens.

But Kersten developed a more relaxed attitude to his sport after Athens and it paid major dividends.

He was the third-last starter in a strong field that featured three of the four fastest riders from last year's world titles.

After Kersten rocketed home from a slowish start to post a time of one minute 1.815 seconds, Queally posted 1:01.849 for the silver and finally Hoy took the bronze in 1:02.071.

Kersten collapsed to the ground, sobbing and with his head in his hands when Hoy's time was posted on the scoreboard.

Midway through his victory lap, he climbed into the stands to hug family and friends.

While Kersten had to nurse a disc problem in the lead-up to the Games, last month national head track coach Martin Barras admitted Anna's back injury was so serious she would not be competing now if it was not for the Games.

Anna, the world record holder and reigning Olympic champion in the 500m, was the last starter.

She thought she had no chance after England's Vicki Pendleton set a Games record with a storming time of 34.662 seconds in the second-last ride.

But Anna drew on her Athens success to post a time of 34.326, her second-best time, while Kerrie, the previous Games champion and record holder, was third in 35.210.

"I figured, because the crowd was going pretty wild, that I had won - I didn't really see the time until I got over on the back straight," Anna said.

"My Mum and Dad were leaning so far over the fence and that's when I caught a glimpse of 34.3.

"Man, I am so, so happy with that - I didn't really think I was capable of a 34 (tonight)."

Anna admitted she had to gather her thoughts when she saw Pendleton's time.

"I probably can't repeat what I thought - 'oh gosh' might be a nice way of putting it," she said.

"Athens was a really, really good thing for me, being able to perform under pressure."

Also, England's Paul Manning beat compatriot Rob Hayles to win the 4000m individual pursuit, while Stephen Cummings made it an English sweep of the medals and Australia's Mark Jamieson was seventh.

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