Cycling: Marchant’s got Rio in her sights after switch to cycling

Katy Marchant.
Katy Marchant.
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A little under two years ago, Leeds athlete Katy Marchant was celebrating winning a gold medal at an international athletics event in the pentathlon.

It was a performance that further validated the belief of the 19-year-old that a career as a multi-event athlete beckoned.

Fast forward to the present day and Marchant is boarding a flight to Cali, Colombia, for the final World Cup meet in the track cycling calandar, from Friday.

Next month she will race on the boards in the world championships in Paris. In another 18 months she hopes to go to Rio to represent Great Britain as part of the powerful track cycling squad that has dominated the last three Olympics.

Such is the speed at which the wheels are turning for this athlete-cum-cyclist.

“I’ve always done athletics, I used to train over in Sheffield for years and years under Toni Minichiello (Jessica Ennis-Hill’s coach),” says Marchant, who went to school in Kippax and now lives in Barwick-in-Elmet.

“We used to do a watt bike session as part of our training, and Toni said one day that I was producing good power.

“That was it at the time, the end of the conversation and I thought nothing more of it.

“But as it turned out, that night he was meeting Matt Parker who used to work for British Cycling and Matt suggested I get in contact with the cycling team to see if they were interested.

“They invited me over to Manchester to do a few trials.

“I still had a GB pentathlon coming up in January, 2013, so I held fire and concentrated on athletics because that was my career path at the time.

“And then a couple of weeks after I’d finished the pentathlon I went over to Manchester for those trials and it progressed from there.

“John Norfolk, the academy sprint coach at the time, got in touch and asked if I fancied having a go on the track full-time.

“‘Let’s have a look at what you’re capable of’, and on April Fools Day, 2013, I moved to Manchester and started on the programme.

“I wasn’t looking for a way out of heptathlon at all. I’d won gold at my last pentathlon event I’d done, I’d been to the world juniors in 2012, so I was set on what I was doing.

“I had an amazing coach in Toni, a great training group to work alongside and everything was going really well.

“I certainly didn’t feel as though I was out of my depths. It was a spur of the moment thing to come and try cycling.

“This opportunity came along and I just thought ‘life’s too short’.”

Since making the transition, former Leeds City Athletics Club member Marchant has been steadily rising through the ranks.

She won medals at the European Under-23 Championships in 2013, then made her senior debut at the continental level last autumn.

Next weekend’s Track World Cup meet in Cali is her biggest challenge on the bike to date.

“The way in to the Olympics is the team sprint, so I’m focusing primarily on that between now and Rio, and anything else is a bonus,” adds Marchant, who in time could also contest the individual sprint and keirin races.

“This meet is an opportunity to poke my nose in.

“I was focusing on Rio in the heptathlon, but I’ve definitely accelerated my progress since I became a cyclist.

“I do like the buzz of the velodrome and the atmosphere when you’re racing is amazing.

“The speed, the adrenalin rush when you’re travelling so fast – I love it.”