Commonwealth Games: Kiwi mountain bikers relish medal expectations

  • 11/04/2018
Sam Gaze
Sam Gaze and Anton Cooper finish 1-2 at Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Photo credit: Photosport.

Kiwi mountain bikers Anton Cooper and Sam Gaze won't be surprise packages at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but expectation isn't weighing them down.

Cooper and Gaze, in their teens in 2014, dramatically won gold and silver when the sport returned to the Games schedule at Glasgow 2014.

Cooper says he is aware of the New Zealand public's expectations in 2018, but now well into his professional career, he'll be treating it as just another race.

"Glasgow, we were the underdogs," he told reporters this week. "We weren't expected to take gold and sliver... now we probably are expected to take gold and silver.

"I enjoy that [the expectation], I don't think it changes too much. Every race I treat as the same - getting in the race mode, trying to get the job done."

Gaze says he goes into Thursday's Gold Coast race in the form of his life.

"Glasgow was a long time ago, four years. Anton and I were starting out our professional careers, 18-19 years old.

"A lot's changed since then, and our expectations for ourselves and each other a bit more higher," he said.

Ben Oliver and Samara Sheppard are the other members of the New Zealand team.

Sheppard doesn't mind her low profile. While Cooper and Gaze burst onto the scene, the 27-year-old has been slowly climbing through the ranks.

She was so determined to make the Gold Coast Games, she moved to Wollongong, near Sydney, about two years ago to prepare - which was helped by having an Australian partner.

"I've been racing as well as ever and coming into this event feeling good," Sheppard said.

"Someone sent me through the betting odds sheet and it said $26. It's a good time to get a bet on me."

Thursday's mountain biking race will be held over a 4.5km course in the Nerang State Forest, just inland from the Gold Coast and developed especially for the Games.