MEDAL HOPE: Anna Meares of Australia in action at the track cycling world championships in France.
MEDAL HOPE: Anna Meares of Australia in action at the track cycling world championships in France. Christophe Ena

Meares to spearhead strong cycling team at Rio

QUEENSLANDER Anna Meares is heading for her fourth Olympic Games after being chosen on the Australian track team for Rio.

Meares will become the third female cyclist in Olympic history to compete in four Games as she defends her title in the sprint, as well as going for gold in the keirin and in the team sprint with Stephanie Morton.

The 32-year-old will head a track cycling team of 16, with a number seeking medals in Brazil.

“It’s a really nice feeling to make it to my fourth Games,” the dual Olympic champion said.

“It was the one event I wanted to make after London and although it’s been a long road I know the next few weeks leading into Rio are going to fly by.

“I think I’ll be going to Rio in the best physical form I have ever been in in my career and I’m ready to do my absolute best for this team and my country.”

In the men’s events Olympic sprint debutant Pat Constable will line up alongside London 2012 Olympian Matt Glaetzer, who is a medal chance in all the sprint disciplines.

Nathan Hart will join Constable and Glaetzer in the team sprint.

The team pursuit for both men and women will provide another chance for gold with strong teams getting out on the track in Brazil.

For the men Alex Edmondson, Sam Welsford, Callum Scotson and Jack Bobridge will take on the best in the world.

Bobridge will head to his third Games, while in the women’s team, Edmondson’s sister Annette will be looking to the lead the team pursuit team to the top of the podium in Rio.

She joined fellow Rio teammates Ashlee Ankudinoff, Melissa Hoskins and Amy Cure in breaking a world record and winning gold at the 2015 world championships and believes the Australian team that also features Georgia Baker can revive that form in Brazil.

On the road, there is more chance for medals, with Richie Porte, Simon Gerrans and time-trial specialist Rohan Dennis in the green and gold.

Dennis will be hoping to go one better than his silver medal four years ago.

Gerrans will compete at his third Games and said he was finally realising what it meant to head to the Olympics.

“Now going into my third Games, I think it’s finally starting to sink in how much of an honour it is to represent your country at the Olympic Games and be part of what will be such a prestigious event,” said the 36-year-old, who alongside Porte and Dennis is currently competing in the Tour de France.

“I am really looking forward to that again this year.”

The road race will start and end at Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach and Gerrans said he would love to be in with a shot of winning.

“If it turns into a race of attrition, it very much suits my style.

“I’ve had some great success on some really long difficult one-day races, so if the race unfolds in that way it could be right up my alley. But if I was actually going to choose a course, this is probably a little bit in the difficult side for me, but anything can happen on the day.

“We’re going to go there with high hopes and big ambitions of getting a medal at the end of the day.”

Caroline Buchanan, Lauren Reynolds and Sam Willoughby will become Australia’s first dual BMX Olympians while Anthony Dean and Bodi Turner will both be on Olympic debut at the first South American Games.

All five of the athletes head to Rio inside the world’s top 20 and have ambitions of Olympic glory come August.

Rebecca Henderson will take part in her second Games after she was announced as Australia’s women’s representative in mountain biking.

She made her Olympic debut in London where she finished 25th.

Athletes from both men’s mountain bike and women’s road teams will be selected at a later date due to appeals.