MILTON TO LEAD MEDAL ASSAULT
By Ray Chesterton in Beijing, September 7 2008
SKIER-turned-cyclist Michael Milton will spend the longest four minutes of his sporting life today wondering if he has completed the fastest time in the 1km time trial and won Australia's first medal of the Paralympic Games.
Miltonwill be first up in his trial when the competition starts at 10am, with the final later this afternoon.
He is hoping for success to get Australia's campaign off to a bright start, but concedes his preferred event is the 3000m pursuit.
Miltonsaid he was recording better times than before he was forced to take a break last year to have his cancerous oesophagus and half his stomach removed.
"It's all over in four minutes, then you have to wait and see how you're placed," he said.
Almost half of the Australian team will be involved in today's opening program of events.
Australians will contest 13 sports at the Games and six start today.
The men's and women's wheelchair basketball sides play their opening games, the swimmers hit the water for the first time and Australia has competitors in the shooting, cycling and table tennis.
The equestrian team will also begin competition in Hong Kong.
At the cycling, Australia will have Queenslander Chris Scott in the qualifying event for the 3000m individual pursuit and two more Queenslanders, Bryce Lindores and Steven George (pilot), in the 400m pursuit qualifying event.
Scott, who competes with cerebral palsy, won the 3000m in Athens and took gold in the time trial road race.
He generously conceded his place to Peter Homann in the team sprint for the final after helping Australia get through the qualifying rounds.
The team went on to win the gold medal.
"It wasn't a huge decision to give my place in the final to Peter," Scott said.
"He deserved his chance on the podium and I already had my gold medal. I actually got a gold medal when they won, so everyone's efforts were acknowledged."
Scott puts in between 250km and 600km a week in training in all weather.
"I feel most comfortable when I am riding my bike," he said. "Cycling is what I was meant to do in life."
Greg Ball, from Collingwood Park in Queensland, will join Milton in the 1km time trial.
Meanwhile, Australia's head swim coach, Brendan Keogh, sees Beijing as the games of conversion.
He wants to turn some of the 14 silver and 15 bronze medals won at Athens in 2004 into gold.Only six of Australia's 35 medals were gold in Athens and our Paralympic ranking plummeted to 10th on the overall swimming medal table behind China (19 gold), Britain (16), US (16), Canada (15) and unfamiliar names from the pool, such as Spain (13) and Ukraine (12).