Australia announces Olympics track squad

Credit: Casey Gibson / Cycling Australia

The track cycling squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has been announced with the major theme being one of continuity from the past few years of the track program.

Matthew Glaetzer, Nathan Hart, Matthew Richardson, Kaarle McCulloch and Stephanie Morton will compete in the sprint events, with Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker, Amy Cure, Annette Edmondson, Maeve Plouffe, Leigh Howard, Kelland O’Brien, Lucas Plapp, Alex Porter and Sam Welsford selected for the endurance events.

Glaetzer and Edmondson are the most experienced members of the squad, both lining up for what will be their third Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Glaetzer is a three-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist and two-time world champion, but has unfinished business at the Olympics with two fourth-placed finishes at the Rio Games. He battled back from a case of thyroid cancer in late 2019 and shapes as Australia’s foremost chance for medals in the men’s sprints.

Edmondson was the only one to avoid the infamous training crash for the women’s team pursuit squad at the Rio Olympics, a crash which curtailed the medal chances for the squad. Amy Cure, Georgia Baker and Ashlee Ankudinoff all back up from that incident with Melissa Dennis (nee Hoskins) the only change.

Young stars Lucas Plapp, 19, and Maeve Plouffe, 20, add some youth to what has been fairly set endurance squads since the start of the Olympic cycle.

Meyer appears to be the highest profile exclusion from the squad as he seemed slated to ride the omnium in Tokyo after collecting world championships in the points race, madison and team pursuit in the past. The West Australian had made his return to track cycling after leaving road team Dimension Data mid season in 2016 and had been a regular part of world championships since – with three world titles to his name in that time – so his absence would have come as a surprise.

However, it is likely that Meyer will be named as part of the road team and then transition across to a mostly track-focused role, with Olympic nominations rules being finessed by the Australian Cycling Team.

Also missing from the squad are Cameron Scott, Kristina Clonan, Macey Stewart and Alex Manly, who had all been in contention to secure spots within the endurance squads. All are also distinguished athletes on the road, and have bright futures ahead of them there if they choose.

The Australian squad had a disappointing outing at the recent world championships with the endurance squad failing to claim a medal and the sprint squad claiming a silver in the women’s team sprint, a bronze in the keirin with Stephanie Morton and a bronze in the men’s team sprint.

New South Wales sprinter Kaarle McCulloch was ecstatic with the announcement after a world championships that saw her claim silver alongside Morton in the women’s team sprint.

“The dream I had when I was 12 watching the Sydney Olympics with my dad feels as real as yesterday,” McCulloch said. “I’ve always had the Olympic spirit within me and I’m ecstatic to be able to be back competing.
 
“My motto into the world championships was “perfect preparation doesn’t predict”. This is the same kind of attitude I’ll be taking with me into Tokyo amidst all the uncertainty and nervousness in the world right now.
 
“Nothing changes for me in terms of my application to my training but a lot is changing in the way we train. As athletes, we are role models for everyone for health. We are taking quite serious steps in our training to ensure we are being responsible athletes but also people. We are following all the guidelines as set out by our medical professionals and we are prepared to face this challenge.
 
“We as humans are facing a challenge but we have also shown we are able to overcome. The world will recover from this and I believe everyone has within them part of the Olympic spirit, this is why the Olympics are so special – it brings the world together when we need it the most.

Lucas Plapp will make his Olympic debut as the youngest member on the 2020 Track Team after a monumental rise in the past 12 months.
 
“I had a little tear in my eye when I found out I made the Tokyo Team, it was a pretty special moment and I was just speechless,” Plapp said.
 
“After the Brisbane World Cup [December 2019] I really started to believe I could make this Team.
 
“I’ve learned so much from [teammate] Sam Welsford from his experiences four years ago and the rest of the team create such a good environment to learn and train in – it helped me realise it’s where I want to be and helped me take my own performance to a new level.
 
After the Danish team broke the World Record held by Australia at the World Championships in February 2019, Plapp is looking forward to the challenge.
 
“It’s a new scenario now to be the hunter and not the hunted, we’ll be using that to our advantage to try to come out and show the world what we’re capable of.”

Whether the Olympics will be run at all remains under a cloud of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, with travel restrictions and quarantine procedures having shut down almost all international sporting competitions currently.

By Jamie Finch-Penninger

Source: Australian Cycling Team