Simon Lessing: The road to Sydney gold goes through me

Britan's Simon Lessing  Credit: Stu Forster /Allsport
GOLD COAST, Australia, Sept. 8 (AFP) Britain's Simon Lessing refers those shouting about Australia's medal chances in the men's triathlon at the Sydney Olympics to the statistics.

Triathlon makes its debut at the Sydney Olympics, and Australians hold high hopes of making an early killing for the medals, with their women top-ranked for a clean sweep and the men among the leading contenders.

Lessing, 29, has won four world titles over the Olympic distance as well as also triumphing over a longer distance in 1995. He also has won four World Cup titles.

His rivals are closing the gap, but Lessing's recent victory over Frenchman Olivier Marceau in Toronto leaves little doubt he will be the man to beat on Sept. 17.

"You just have to look at statistics and the results over the men's events, and Britain over the last 10 years has won more gold medals than any other country," Lessing said here Friday. "We have dominated over an eight- to 10-year period so there's not very much else to say.

"You can analyze anything as much as you want, but there is always going to be some surprises, it may not be an Aussie, it may not be a Brit, it may be someone you've never even heard of."

Cape Town-born Lessing has been competing for Britain since 1989 and only started living in the country four months ago, having preferred the warmer climate of the south of France after leaving South Africa 11 years ago.

"There are certain countries that are more adapted to triathlon, but saying that there is a lot of talent in the UK, there is more interest from a mass-participation point of view," Lessing said.

Britain has another strong medal hope in Andrew Johns, born in England but raised in Australia.

Johns switched allegiances when he failed to break into the elite of the sport in Australia and last year won the World Cup and was fourth in the world championships.

Johns, 26, who trains at altitude in Switzerland, also placed second over the Olympic course in Sydney last year.

"I'm very confident of doing well," Johns said. "I've had a fantastic preparation, everything's gone exactly to plan and I'm ready to race.

"The British men's team is very strong and we have a good chance to get one, if not two or even all three medals."

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