BBC BLOGS - Ollie Williams

Archives for March 2011

Track Worlds 2011: Panic stations for Britain?

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Ollie Williams | 17:01 UK time, Sunday, 27 March 2011

Apeldoorn, the Netherlands

British track cycling world titles tumbled in the Apeldoorn velodrome all week as Australia asserted themselves in style.

Sir Chris Hoy, Ed Clancy and Victoria Pendleton all lost theirs, and all three - the men's keirin, men's omnium and women's sprint - went to Australian rivals.

Britain finished the week with one gold medal, in the women's team pursuit. Australia will board their long-haul flight home with no fewer than eight. The last fell to Pendleton's arch-rival Anna Meares in the keirin, Pendleton having exited in the second round.

Those bare facts sound like grim reading for the British team, a year away from their home Olympics, facing intense pressure to reproduce - as far as is possible - their incredible performance at the Beijing Games.

So what can we conclude from the 2011 Track World Championships? Are Australia now unstoppable at London 2012? Can things be turned around in the next 12 months? Is it fair to start panicking about British track cycling?

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Building a London 2012 venue - in a Dutch forest

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Ollie Williams | 15:55 UK time, Friday, 25 March 2011

Deep within a wealth of forest encompassing the Netherlands' central belt, the Dutch have carved out their Olympic nerve centre.

Twice the size of Lilleshall and dwarfing Bisham Abbey, the Papendal national sports centre is home - literally, in many cases - to top Dutch athletes from a wide range of Olympic sports.

And now, it is home to an exact replica of the London 2012 BMX track. Or at least, the Dutch hope it is - because it's difficult to build a replica of something which doesn't exist.

Building work on London's track has only just started (it's on schedule, it simply had to wait for the velodrome had to be finished first), so a bit of guesswork was required on the part of the Dutch. But they are pretty confident.

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Skate expectations: Winter Olympian Clara Hughes makes track cycling comeback

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Ollie Williams | 19:20 UK time, Thursday, 24 March 2011

People who reach the Olympic Games in more than one sport are special. Think of Britain's Rebecca Romero, a rowing silver medallist at Athens 2004 and a track cycling Olympic champion four years later in Beijing.

But going from the Summer Olympics to the Winter Olympics and back again takes things to a staggering level. Nor does it stop there for Canada's Clara Hughes - whereas Romero failed to get selected for this week's Track World Championships in the Netherlands, Hughes is here and racing in Romero's event, the women's team pursuit.

Hughes' Olympic record is as follows: two bronze medals in road cycling at Atlanta 1996; another road cycling appearance at Sydney 2000; speed skating bronze at Salt Lake 2002; speed skating gold and silver at Turin 2006; and bronze on the ice again at Vancouver 2010.

Now 38-years-old, she has returned to the bike and is on course to reach the London Olympics. As Canada's flag-bearer in Vancouver in 2010, she comes armed with advice for British track cyclists on coping with the pressure of a home Games - and an undimmed enthusiasm for any sport she can get her hands on.

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Track Worlds 2011: Everything you need to know

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Ollie Williams | 07:00 UK time, Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Apeldoorn, the Netherlands

Which events is Sir Chris Hoy competing in at the Track Cycling World Championships this week? More importantly, which ones is he expected to win?

Who is this Anna Meares character who always gets mentioned alongside Victoria Pendleton? Are Australia suddenly better than Britain at this? Why don't we care about the individual pursuit any more; why isn't Bradley Wiggins anywhere to be seen?

And where's the bloke with the piece of wood through his leg, anyway?

If you're interested in watching the Worlds on TV this week but not a hardened cycling fanatic, here's a quick guide.

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British cyclists - powered by coffee

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Ollie Williams | 14:12 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Plenty of us need it as a pick-me-up in the morning, but would you have had Britain's finest track cyclists down as coffee addicts?

It turns out the GB team are every bit as keen on the bean as desk-dwellers hugging their mugs at work.

And with two of Britain's top team pursuiters - Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas - away on road-racing duty, one of the squad's leading baristas has the chance to blend with the world's best at next week's Track World Championships in the Netherlands.

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Olympic sports' biggest events in 2011 - and who to watch

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Ollie Williams | 21:14 UK time, Monday, 14 March 2011

Tickets for the London Olympics may now be on sale, but the athletes involved still have more than a year's frantic action to get through before the Games begin.

That means there are plenty of opportunities to see world-class Olympic sport this year - with tickets for most being easier and cheaper to come by, while many will have extensive coverage from BBC Sport.

And we now know which events will matter most for Britain's Olympic hopefuls en route to 2012, because GB funding body UK Sport has released medal targets for every Olympic sport in 2011. Each target is based on the single most important event in that sport this year, so if it's on UK Sport's list, then it's as big as it gets.

The London Olympics are of course the climax to all this activity but, if you start following these sports now, you'll get to know the storylines and the protagonists in time for 2012. Their successes or failures at the Games will mean more if you've seen the work that went into getting there.

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What's wrong with British badminton?

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Ollie Williams | 09:03 UK time, Friday, 4 March 2011

When UK Sport conducted its annual review of sports it funds last December, only one summer Olympic sport received a cut in funding: badminton.

The departure of the team's head coach in acrimonious circumstances followed a summer dogged by in-fighting between top British players. At the Commonwealth Games, with many European and Asian stars excluded, English players missed a succession of chances to win gold.

UK Sport came up with around £8m for badminton ahead of 2012, and has always been clear that its decisions are based on performances, not associated politics. In cutting badminton's support by £540,000 in December, the funding body made it clear that the sport is not getting the right results.

Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms won mixed doubles silver at Athens in 2004, watched by 4.5m TV viewers in Britain, so badminton has tasted fairly recent success. But the pair came home from Beijing empty-handed and things have yet to pick up since.

What has gone wrong with British badminton? Is all hope now lost for the London Olympics in 2012?

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