Normally, the year before a Commonwealth Games in Scotland has a bit more of a competitive feel to the top end of the domestic racing scene than the other 3 years, with riders hoping to gain selection for their country in the following years Commonwealth Games, which this time starts at home, in Glasgow. Usually in the actual year of the Games things calm down as selection by this point is more or less decided, this year it feels even more competitive than the usual build-up, there’s a fair buzz and the racing has barely even started.
The Commonwealth-Cycle V The Olympic-Cycle
We often hear Dave Brailsford, head honcho of Team GB & Team Sky always talking about ‘The Olympic Cycle’, this highlights why Team GB get their funding, the National Lottery funds them primarily just for getting Olympic Medals. This results in a public feel-good-factor and keeps the public happy once every four years, everybody glad that our country is once again performing on an international stage, it makes us feel important & it brings everybody together against a common enemy, i.e. everybody else. Olympic performance has a measurable effect on the psyche of a nation, every government holds Olympic success in high esteem for this reason, it takes the pressure off other pressing (or embarrassing) matters and calls for unity behind a nation, while putting sportsmen & women on a pedestal while politicians skulk around in the half-light, knowing fine well that any scandals will be minimised while the Olympics are underway. So for whatever untoward reasons those in power may have to keep us happy, we do benefit from that ‘Olympic Feeling’, we do feel better, we do unite for Team GB, even the most nationalist minded Scots can be seen shouting at Laura Trott in a Devil, we love it.
The Commonwealth Games is inevitably on a lower rung than the Olympics, but to those nations in the UK outside of the one with the largest population base (who often look on Team GB as Team England anyway), it gives everybody else a chance to have some international representation in their favourite sports from athletes who often don’t get the chance to perform on a world-class stage. We have very few sports where Scotland is represented in world championship type competitions, mainly due to some sporting governing bodies which somehow have escaped being amalgamated into a GB or UK bodies. Some minority ones that come to mind are a successful curling team which regularly performs on an international stage but competes as GB in the Winter Olympics, Cricket, Darts, and a lowly ranked football team which brings more misery than rapture.
The above explains some of the reasons for a major difference between the priorities some riders have in these two very different Olympic & Commonwealth Cycles. For riders involved in the Olympic Cycle & the GB Team, the Commonwealths will be just one stepping stone along the way to Olympic selection, from a British Cycling coaching point of view it’s likely seen as an inconvenient blip in Olympic preparation, which could absorb a huge amount of limited funding for little reward towards the main goal, Olympic medals. Olympic places are qualified by World Championships & World Cups on the track, so to look at it from a British Cycling perspective & removing all emotion, the Commonwealths are not important other than perhaps a guide to see what the Aussies are up to (as far as the management go, the riders probably have different views).
Can we perform with home-grown talent?
A Commonwealth cycle is therefore a much lower funded endeavour all round, with the chance than the home nations can come up with comparable preparation & support for some of the athletes who just missed out on Team GB selection for a multitude of reasons, injury, career, family, location, luck etc, these individuals can take a step up and prove themselves on a slightly more level playing field. I’m not saying that the Commonwealth Scottish cyclists have coaching, equipment & medical support that is equal to that of riders in a final year in an Olympic cycle, but there is definitely more chance of competing against the might of a UK funded professional squad, which has other priorities,. These types of performances don’t go unnoticed internationally, so there really is everything to play for from our homegrown talents, riders like James McCallum have used a Commonwealth medal (bronze medal with Cav taking Gold) as a stepping stone to a career as a professional cyclist, previously he was working as a nurse while training, a huge undertaking. This example really shows the possibilities that talented & driven riders, along with some high quality coaching & support from unsung workhorses like Scottish Cycling’s performance coach Graeme Herd can allow our riders to transform into high performers at the Commonwealth Games.
Who are all these talented & driven riders?
The normal Scottish culture is to assume that our riders have as much chance of success in the Commonwealth Games as the Panda’s in Edinburgh Zoo have of mating. I intend to break that idea you’re fighting to believe by showing you who’s performing or preparing to perform at Glasgow 2014. The talent pool in Scotland has always been there, it really looks like we’ll be sending a very strong squad in all disciplines to Glasgow next year, with current developments we should be in an even better position in 2018.
I’ll try to do a series or blogs on the different disciplines, but with the blossoming Breast Cancer Care women’s team harvesting some of the best road talent in Scotland, mountain biking brimming with riders such as Lee Craigie, Katy Winton, Gareth Montgomerie, Rab Wardell, Kenta Gallacher, Dave Henderson, Grant Ferguson & Rob Friel, track racing progressing at an incredible rate with the new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome & mens road talent placed in top British UCI registered teams, things will be very competitive during 2013.
There’s no doubt that some riders will appear throughout the coming season, we have the talent, we have a written pathway for how to gain selection, it’s a good year to be blogging. I’m a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games, seemingly I already have a job allocated, so hopefully I’ll also be there to give an inside & anonymous look at how the Games are progressing.