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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Cooke 'can deliver gold'
Nicole Cooke
Cooke's fledgling career has already exceeded all expectations
Nicole Cooke can handle the pressure of a nation's golden Olympic expectation, according to British cycling's performance director Dave Brailsford.

Cooke goes into Sunday's road race as one of the favourites, and Brailsford insists the 21-year-old will shine.

"She's up for the challenge and the pressure," said Brailsford. "Whenever she's gone into a race with pressure before, she's delivered.

"Her attention to detail in her preparation is phenomenal."

I'm going into the road race looking to get the gold
Nicole Cooke

Cooke arrives in Athens as the reigning World Cup champion and winner of this year's prestigious two-week Giro d'Italia.

Sunday's race will be the first of three attempts at cycling gold - with the time trial and points race to come later.

Victory would make her the first British woman to win a cycling gold, the first Briton of either sex to win a road race gold, the first Welsh woman in the modern era to win an Olympic title in any sport and Wales' first gold medallist since equestrian Richard Meade 1972.

The road title is the title she craves, and the Welsh rider is more than happy to accept the tag gold digger.

"I've always been thinking about gold," she told BBC Sport. "If you go to the Olympics with the aim of getting bronze and don't get it, you'll come fourth or fifth.

"But if you go there thinking of gold, you could still come away with something if you finish second or third.

"So without a doubt, I'm going into the road race looking to get the gold."

And it is this inner determination which prompts Brailsford to describe her as a "born winner" and "an exceptional individual".

Standing between Cooke and gold - barring the ever present threat of punctures and accidents - will be defending Olympic champion Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands.

Many observers have tipped Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden and Holland's Mirjam Melchers, who beat Cooke to gold and silver at the World Championships.





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BBC Wales Sport previews Nicole Cooke's golden quest




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Cooke drops pursuit
23 Jul 04  |  Cycling


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