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Burke can rule for Britain
11:00am Saturday 29th September 2012 in Sport
HE won a gold medal at London 2012 and a bronze in Beijing four years earlier, but still Steven Burke remains in the shadows of cycling’s more famous names when it comes to national recognition.
It is an unfortunate consequence of British Cycling’s incredible success at the last two Olympic Games, when they have delivered a total of 16 golds, six silvers and four bronze medals.
In truth, Burke is perhaps more comfortable out of the limelight – happy to leave it to the likes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott.
The Colne rider is a quiet individual who rarely goes out of his way to seek attention.
But in time more recognition could come his way.
Burke is only 24 and British Cycling’s head coach Shane Sutton has now revealed that he expects the East Lancashire star to become the team pursuit’s main man in Rio in 2016.
Four years ago in Beijing, Burke missed out on inclusion in the quartet – taken to the Olympics as the spare man before claiming a shock bronze medal in the individual pursuit.
This time he was virtually a guaranteed selection but was still less experienced than Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas, both part of the team that won gold in 2008.
In the end, however, Burke and Clancy were regarded as the two strongest performers in London.
Thomas’ preparations had been affected by illness and Burke took more responsibility as a result, taking longer turns in the energy-sapping role at the front of the quartet.
The British team, which also included Peter Kennaugh, set a new world record time of three minutes 51.659 seconds on the way to the gold medal.
Thomas is expected to concentrate on road cycling, while Clancy is due to move to the team sprint to replace Hoy.
“The men’s team pursuit is going to be an interesting one with a few faces coming and going,” said Sutton, who was brought in from Australia to coach the British team in 2002.
“The mainstay of that team I would say will be Steven Burke.
“He will probably step up as the main man and I think he will do a fantastic job at that, having been a very important part of the team and the success it has had already.
“With Ed moving to the team sprint and us probably not seeing Geraint on the track again, we will see Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison come in.
“That fourth spot is open at the minute but having a man like Steven in the team will be a huge help to whoever comes in.
“He has been there and done it all before and will ensure that the team stays at the high level it has been performing at.”
And it is a measure of the success Burke has already achieved in the sport that Sutton, speaking at an event this week in his role as a Gillete Great Starts ambassador, referred to the Colne man as a cycling ‘great’.
Burke – expected to continue to the 2020 Olympics – also has two European team pursuit gold medals and a world title to his name, in an era that has seen Great Britain dominate the track.
“I think we tend to live in a bubble in British Cycling and the success we had still hasn’t hit me properly,” Sutton said.
“It is probably the same as if you play for Man United, you don’t really see what is going on outside.
“And that is the same for me. I am just a normal guy that comes from a little council estate in the back of Australia.
“But to be aligned with such greatness makes you pinch yourself every now and again.
“It has just been our time in the sport and to meet all these greats like Steven, and to work with them, has just been a pure pleasure.”
The 2012 Gillette ‘Great Starts’ campaign celebrates community coaches and inspires the next generation of coaches by providing them with grants to fund their next level qualifications.
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