Coach sees potential in new track star Becky James
5:00am Monday 25th February 2013 in Sport
HEAD coach Shane Sutton heaped praise on Becky James following the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk, but insisted it was impossible to compare Great Britain's new sprint queen with Victoria Pendleton.
The 21-year-old from Abergavenny won sprint and Keirin gold, team sprint bronze and 500 metres time-trial bronze at the Minsk Arena to become the first Briton to take four medals at a World Championships. Three times the now-retired Pendleton won three medals, most recently in 2009.
Sutton believes James' ability compares favourably with Pendleton, eight-time world champion Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus and Olympic champion Anna Meares of Australia, three of the all-time greats.
"This girl, compared to all of them, she's probably got a little bit more tactical nous,’’ said Sutton, who was overseeing the British squad in Minsk with Sir Dave Brailsford concentrating on his role as British Cycling performance director and Team Sky principal.
"She's probably got a steeliness more than them. She probably hasn't got the raw speed yet that Vicky had.
"Vicky, in her top flight, was incredible. Vicky was born with it.
"She had a gift, she could pedal at a great cadence. You can't compare the two. Maybe in six years' time.
"Vicky goes down in my book as one of the legends of the women's sprint.’’ James was a London 2012 reserve, but rather than being housed in the athletes' village, continued training.
"The Games were a big setback for her,’’ Sutton added.
"There were tears shed at that moment. Last night (Saturday), she looked back, laughed and thought: good decision.
"We have always believed she's got the ability.’’ Pendleton's first of six world sprint titles came in 2005 aged 24 and she won nine in all.
James is now realising her potential after appendicitis and an Achilles injury delayed her progress following her Commonwealth Games silver behind Meares, aged 18.
After the Beijing Olympics, when Britain won seven of 10 events - a haul replicated in London - just two titles followed at the 2009 World Championships in Pruszkow, Poland.
In Minsk, Britain finished with gold medals for the women's team pursuit squad of Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker, Jason Kenny in the men's Keirin and Simon Yates in the men's points race, to go with James' double.
Sutton believes his young squad can improve for Rio.
"The head room is massive,’’ Sutton added.
"There won't be massive gains, but you win Olympic medals on hundreds and thousands.
"I am sure there will be something we can find to move us on to Rio and being very successful there, as well over the next three years.’’ The group of riders in Belarus are just the start, with the likes of James and Jess Varnish, who missed out with a back injury and was replaced by Vicky Williamson, being pushed by Dannielle Khan and Rosie Blount.
"No one in this environment is safe because the talent pool is so big at the moment,’’ Sutton said.
"You can take anybody to the podium if you coach them well and give them the support services they need, as long as they've got a certain amount of physical ability starting the journey.’’