By David Leggat
Anton Cooper is hoping Tokyo will be third time lucky in his ambition to fulfil his Olympic dream.
The Canterbury mountain biker had his sights set on the London and Rio Games of 2012 and 2016 but missed out both times.
The 2012 world junior champion, and world under 23 champion three years later, was ruled ineligible for the London Games on age, by a few months.
Then illness ruined his hopes of racing in Rio three years ago.
He has shown himself among the best on the international circuit though, having won gold in the Commonwealth Games race in Glasgow in 2014, then taking silver behind fellow Kiwi Sam Gaze on the Gold Coast last year, when the pair clocked the identical time, 1h 17min 36s.
Cooper, who turns 25 on August 11, admitted Rio had been a devastating experience.
‘’Yeah, but it’s good to go through those moments, and it makes me hungry for to get there more,’’ he said.
‘’London was disappointing initially but I thought I’d be there in Rio, but that didn’t happen as well. So it’s been a long wait to have this opportunity and I want to make it work.’’
Cooper believes his season is in decent shape. It began with five successive wins and once he got through a flat period when he first got to Europe is back in his groove and confident he can do well once the riders get to the world championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec at the end of August.
It’s a course he knows well, and likes.
‘’I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve raced well there in the past, so my confidence on this track is very good. The style of course will suit me and I always have a good feeling there.’’
New Zealand are likely to be restricted to one male and one female rider at the Tokyo Games.
Cooper admits he hasn’t spent much time thinking about the Olympics just yet.
‘’For now, it’s about those events that are right in front of me. I’m focused on those rather than the Olympics. There’s about 20 races between now and then and I’ve got to focus on that first rather than get distracted and look ahead to the Olympics.
‘’I know the Olympics are a big deal and will have to focus on that, but that point is not now.’’
Cooper should get an early look at the Tokyo layout at a test event on October 6, but he likes what he has seen and heard about the course.
‘’It looks really nice and natural. It will be technical, and that’s the type of track that’s going to show off our sport the best.’’
After what he’s been through, there should be no doubting Cooper’s fierce resolve to be in Tokyo.