August 12/08 10:14 am - Beijing Olympics: US Track Team Holds Press Confernece
Posted by Editoress on 08/12/08
Beijing Olympics - US Track Team Press Conference
The U.S. track team held a press conference today, four days prior to the start of competition at the Laoshan Velodrome in western Beijing. Present were four of the Americans slated to compete on the track - Sarah Hammer (Pursuit and Points Race), Jennie Reed (Match Sprint), Taylor Phinney (Pursuit) and Michael Blatchford (Team Sprint and Match Sprint).
The first question was, inevitably, about the mask controversy, when four American riders disembarked from their flight in Beijing wearing protective masks. It was immediately picked up by the general media, and the athletes had to apologize for potentially offending their Chinese hosts.
Both Hammer and Reed were asked about how the controversy had affected their preparation.
"For me, I've just tried to surround myself with my family and friends," said Hammer. "This is my first Olympics, so it's overwhelming already, and the more attention that is made, the more stressed out it I got. But, I have put it behind me now, and moved on to training, and I'm looking forward to racing Friday."
Reed was more succinct: "It's sort of like a bad race, you have to put it behind you and refocus. There was no malicious intent, we were just taking precautions."
Hammer also said that she continues to use the mask. "I feel healthy after taking these precautions, just like I am coming into any other race. Yes, I still wear it when necessary, but for the last couple of days it hasn't been necessary."
Hammer also talked about the competition for the Pursuit, and the difference that having the event spread over three days makes.
"Romero (Great Britain, who beat Hammer for the world title in March), is definitely one of my strongest competitors, but for me it is best just to focus on myself. The Pursuit has no tactics, you can only go as fast as you can go."
"Spanning three days is different, for sure, and it will come down to who can recover best. We have all known about this format for a long time, so we've been preparing, I've been training for racing three days in a row. Personally, I think it suits me, because it allows me to refocus."
Andy Sparks, Sarah Hammer's coach, spoke about Hammer's back injury, which has impacted the last World Cup season, and also saw her lose her world Pursuit title to Rebecca Romero.
"It was an L4/L5 disc tear, which was hard to diagnosis. Sarah spent nearly three months completely off the bike, then started training right through the World Cups and the Worlds. At the Worlds she was at about 65%. But the back injury is no longer a factor in training volume."
Jennie Reed is coming off an extremely strong World Cup and world championships season, culminating in a bronze in the Sprint and a world title in the Keirin. It has helped build her confidence.
"It just got me more excited, and helped my confidence, and now with five months of training, I'm here even better than I was at Worlds. But you need to keep in mind that there are only 12 women starting the Sprint, and 7 or 8 have won a world title. But, if everything goes right, I can have an awesome performance."
"I've been in LA [Los Angeles] since Worlds, for five months, and the training hasn't changed too much, but I have been working on acceleration a lot because that is so important in the sprint."
The majority of questions for Taylor Phinney focused around his famous cycling parents, Connie Carpenter Phinney and Davis Phinney. When asked what influence having such accomplished cyclists as parents has had on his development, he stated honestly "I don't know how to answer that ... they are my parents. Of course I have heard the stories. Unfortunately, my parents can't get access to the track here, like they do at other races to help me prepare, but I'm 18 now, so I'm supposed to be a man (laughs)."
"I don't feel a lot of pressure here, I'm more of an underdog, I think, because of my age and [lack of] experience. I'm just here to learn. It's been cool to be around the road guys, and meet Levi [Leipheimer] and George [Hincapie]. That's what I want to be like."