UK cycling team aim for more gold after tough 5 years
The most successful cycling nation at the Rio Olympics is aiming for more gold in Tokyo.
Britain is also committed to doing it the right way.
Its cycling team won 32 gold medals and 87 in total at the Summer Games, behind France for most of all nations. But much of that success has come in the past two Olympic cycles, when the track cycling team dominated the London 2012 Games in front of boisterous home crowds, then continued their performance with 12 medals in Rio. .
Much has changed in the years since, however.
There have been allegations of bullying, sexism and discrimination within the UK program, including allegations of sexism made by former track cyclist Jess Varnish – and supported by others – against the former manager by Shane Sutton.
More recently, former Chief Medical Officer Richard Freeman was convicted of ordering testosterone “knowing or believing” that the banned hormone was intended for an anonymous runner to improve performance. Freeman appeals the verdict.
“I am completely determined that we win the right way,” said Stephen Park, who replaced Sutton in December 2016, in a conference call with reporters. “We have a responsibility to lead the sport and to do so with integrity. We want to inspire the nation when we go to the Olympics. We want the whole country to be proud to be British.
To that end, Britain unveiled its lineup for the delayed Tokyo Games on Monday. It brings back a lot of experience with husband-wife track stars Jason and Laura Kenny trying to add to their huge medal crop and youngsters like Tao Geoghegan Hart representing a new wave of talent.
“The GB team has a proud track record of track cycling at the Olympic Games and it is exciting to see the BMX and MTB disciplines alongside very experienced road cyclists selected into the team,” said Mark England, Head of mission of the British Olympic Association. “The Olympic experience of this team is extremely impressive and I have no doubt that it will be a valuable asset for those preparing to make their Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Jason Kenny has come out of retirement to lead the way. The track sprinter already has six gold and one silver to his name, and another gold would break the tie with Chris Hoy for most British cyclists. Another medal of any color would put him tied with Bradley Wiggins for most.
Kenny’s wife Laura won four gold medals. She will be joined by fellow Olympic champions Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker and newcomers Neah Evans and Josie Knight at the Izu Peninsula Velodrome in Japan.
The rest of the track team include Ed Clancy, who will be looking for his fourth straight gold in the team pursuit, and fellow endurance racers Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon, Matt Walls and Ollie Wood. Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens will compete in the sprint events while Katy Marchant is back to compete in the sprint and keirin after winning a bronze medal in Rio.
“We are renowned for our dominance in the track events,” said Park, “and while we have a realistic expectation that the rest of the world will be more competitive than ever this year, I am still extremely excited to see every member of the track and field team looking for a medal in Tokyo.
The difference between this Olympic cycle and those of the past is that Great Britain has high hopes for medals in other disciplines.
Geoghegan Hart will be joined on the road by veteran Geraint Thomas and twins Adam and Simon Yates, and Geoghegan Hart and Thomas will also compete in the time trial. The women’s road team consists of 2012 silver medalists Lizzie Diegnan and Anna Shackley, who will also compete in the time trial.
The selection leaves out the quadruple winner of the Tour de France Chris Froome, who has struggled in recent years to regain his form, as well as Hugh Carthy, Alex Dowsett and Luke Rowe.
Tom Pidcock was another option for the road, but he turned to mountain biking and Olympic rules prevent him from racing in both disciplines. The Under-23 world champion has been selected despite a recent broken collarbone – he is expected to be close to full health – with Evie Richards for the women’s race.
Kye Whyte and Beth Shriever will make their Olympic debuts in BMX racing, while Declan Brooks and world bronze medalist Charlotte Worthington will compete in the new discipline of BMX freestyle.
“I am proud of the focus the support team has put in trying to diversify our medals, with real investment in BMX and MTB disciplines,” said Park. “I am sure that we will see this investment bear fruit with good performances in Tokyo which will then be very useful for Paris 2024.”