Olympic track cyclist Matt Glaetzer has fire in belly as fourth Olympics beckon
Australian sprinter Matt Glaetzer will compete at his fourth Olympics at the Paris Games. Photo: AAP
Matt Glaetzer knew if he was going to the well for a fourth time it had to be worthwhile.
Now, with an elusive Olympic medal looking much more like a realistic chance than a dream, the 31-year-old Australian track cycling star has the fire in his belly stoked for Paris.
Glaetzer and his men’s team sprint colleagues have shown they are in the same league as the Dutch, who ruled the sprint events at the Tokyo Olympics.
Australia won the 2022 world title and lost to The Netherlands by less than a 10th of a second at last month’s worlds in Glasgow.
In the individual events, Australian Matt Richardson is the new star and he won a second silver medal in the keirin.
After three Olympics without a medal Glaetzer is confident about what can happen next year.
“It’s going to be that challenge of going again and always improving to make sure we represent Australia to the best of our ability,” Glaetzer told AAP.
“We know medals are what gets the attention and we are finally in a position to really fight for some serious medals at the Games.
“It’s our strongest chance yet and it’s really exciting. That fuels the fire to make some history.”
Glaetzer’s struggles before and during the Tokyo Games are well documented.
Long-time national sprint coach Gary West died of MND in 2017, then Glaetzer was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2019, which meant surgery.
He then suffered a serious calf muscle injury in early 2020, before the Games were delayed a year because of COVID-19.
When he finally made it to Tokyo, Glaetzer was a senior member of the track team that had Australia’s worst Olympic medal haul at the velodrome since 1980.
So before committing to Paris, Glaetzer needed a long, hard think about whether it was worth going through it all again.
“It was a challenging period after Tokyo. We’d overcome so much – and me personally – to get to that place,” he said.
“For certain things not to go well, to know we weren’t putting our absolute best foot forward on the track, was not easy to take.
“I know what’s required and how difficult it is to go for another Olympic schedule.”
But when Glaetzer looked around and saw the young talent coming through the national track program, he was convinced to go again.
“It became very apparent, very early, that we have such a great team and it would be a shame not to try to maximise that and play a part in that, after working tirelessly for so many years and missing out on successes that are so hard to come by in elite sport,” he said.
The outlook for Paris is not all sunny – Australia won no gold on the track in Glasgow and the flagship team pursuit squads went without medals.
But the madison duo of Georgia Baker and Alex Manly won silver and young sprinter Kristina Clonan won her first senior medal at the worlds, taking silver in the 500m time-trial.
While the 500m is not an Olympic event it shows Clonan is on the right trajectory.
“We’ve known we have these performances in us … the development they’re having at the moment is such a quick progression,” Glaetzer said.
“Broadly we have a really young team. The performances we’ve been able to achieve so far and especially at these world championships, are super encouraging.”