Guo gunning for Olympic glory
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guo gunning for Olympic glory

by Agence France-Presse at 9:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Track
Track cycling star Guo Shuang doesn't get much rest. But with Olympic gold on her and China's mind, the punishing hours spent on the track and in the weight room could finally be worth it.

Guo is a specialist in track's coveted sprint event, in which riders must qualify with fast flying start times before contending the various rounds in a bid to make the final.

A former silver medallist at world level, the quiet-spoken 22-year-old from Inner Mongolia faces arguably the biggest test of her career - adding to the Olympic hosts' anticipated large tally of gold medals.

The challenge is even bigger considering that to do so, she will have to beat "around six rivals who are really fast", according to her coach, the retired French track legend Daniel Morelon.

Britain's Victoria Pendleton, a three-time world champion who dominated Guo in the 2007 final at Palma, Spain, is everyone's big favourite having defended her title in style in March.

Guo failed to make the medal rounds at the Manchester world championships, where Britain swept the board.

But ahead of her big challenge on August 19 at the Olympic track competition, Morelon says Guo - who has been guilty of lacking the aggressive spark needed to beat rivals like Pendleton - now realises it's time to deliver.

"We've worked really well these past few months. For me, she's a level above what she was in Manchester," Morelon told AFP at the Laoshan velodrome Wednesday. "The big difference between now and the past is that she is conscious of the stakes, and how important it is to do well in competition. "She's calm, she has a good head on her shoulders and she knows what she has to do here."

The women's sprint competition will be a battle from the outset with the likes of Pendleton, Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania, Dutchwoman Willy Kanis and American Jennis Reed all aiming to show who's the boss.

Morelon admits that home support for Guo could give her a spur, but he won't be relying on a majority of the 6,000-capacity crowd to give her an advantage. "She has to go out there and do it on the track," he added.

A typical week for Guo involves three days of weight training, two or three days on the track, perhaps one on the road and just Sunday for rest.

It leaves little time for much else, but the girl who learned much of her trade, along with Pendleton, at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland seems happy to follow her coach's orders.

"We haven't changed much as regards training," added Morelon. "It's just been a repetition of training sessions. The only day she gets off is Sunday, and she spends that resting and sleeping."

Beijing, some might argue, may have come a little too soon for Guo.

Morelon concedes that Pendleton, and perhaps a few others will be hard to beat, but he says the Olympics can often spring a surprise.

"There are about six really fast girls up there right now, although I'd put the world champion (Pendleton) above the rest," Morelon added. "But in the sprint anything can happen. There have been World Cup events that she (Pendleton) hasn't won, and there's always the risk that mistakes will be made. "Mistakes in the sprint, like in a lot of other sports such as the pole vault or the hurdles, can be costly. The slightest mistake and you can be out."

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