Surprise Rio medallist Katy Marchant of Leeds tells Lee Sobot how she’s already putting plans in place for Tokyo 2020.
A CONVERSATION between Katy Marchant and her boyfriend and family clearly highlighted the cyclist’s expectations at the Rio Olympics.
The Leeds speedster insisted that as she would not be winning any medals, her nearest and dearest would be better off not splashing out on the price of plane tickets to Brazil.
Save it for Tokyo 2020 was the gut feeling. Thankfully, dad Ian and boyfriend Robert ignored the cyclist’s advice.
Rest assured they will also be heading to Tokyo, with Marchant confident her first Olympic medal is the first of more to come.
Marchant, 23, is still coming to terms with having exceeded all her expectations by bagging Great Britain a bronze medal in the women’s cycling individual sprint.
She beat Holland’s Elis Ligtlee in the bronze-medal best-of-three shootout in Rio, having negotiated qualifying and then three knockout rounds before seeing her bid for gold ended at the semi-final stage by eventual Olympic champion Kristina Vogel of Germany.
Amazingly, the Leeds-based athlete has only been competing in the sport for three years having initially attempted to land sporting stardom as a heptathlete, as part of Toni Minichiello’s training group which is headlined by Jessica Ennis-Hill.
It was Minichiello who noticed Marchant’s natural ability on a wattbike and alerted British Cycling.
Three years later, his protege is back on English soil with an Olympic bronze medal which is regarded as something of a surprise and a bonus.
Marchant had always envisaged Tokyo 2020 as being her ultimate chance to shine – and in four years’ time she will most definitely be urging all of her supporters to come along, especially given the prospect of competing in a second event, the women’s keirin.
Taking ten minutes out of her very busy homecoming from Rio, Marchant told the YEP: “Before I went, and when I finally got selected, I said to the family obviously the flights are really expensive so don’t waste your money just yet because this is my first Olympics and I am just going for the experience.
“I was like ‘I’m not going to be winning medals, I don’t need people in the crowd, don’t worry.
“But thank God my dad and Robert came out!
“I have only been in the sport for three years. I had expectations but it was more expectations of myself, not of a performance result.
“I wasn’t looking for results, I just wanted to go in and do myself justice and obviously a massive thing for me is learning the racing itself and the tactics.
“I just wanted to build as a rider and learn something new and literally after qualifying I felt so good and every race I went into I was gaining more and more confidence.
“Everyone has their day and I think I just had my three days then!”
Reflecting on the magnitude of her achievement, Marchant pondered: “I am definitely still pinching myself. I don’t think it’s ever going to sink in. Honestly I just cannot believe it.
“It was a bit like I couldn’t really believe it.
“I didn’t celebrate at first, I was just like ‘ow, my legs are absolutely killing!
“I thought ‘I am going to be sick’ but then I saw my coach jumping up and down – Justin Grace – he just looked ecstatic for me and I just could no believe it.
“I needed to slap myself to wake myself up.
“I am absolutely chuffed to bits and it’s a dream come true, for my first Olympics. And this is just the beginning.
“I’m going to get back on my bike and I’m heading to Tokyo but it’s just been a massive confidence boost and I think people will look at me as a different rider now. I feel a million dollars.”
Marchant’s success was part of an array of medals celebrated by athletes representing both Team GB and Yorkshire and the cyclist was given a heroine’s reception at a recent surprise party held for her return home to Barwick-in-Elmet.
“Honestly, I didn’t know I knew that many people,” said Marchant.
“I can not believe how many people were there and it made me cry, as soon as I walked in.
“I was so overwhelmed with the support and everyone was absolutely amazing.
“I’ve had messages from people that I have not spoken to in years and years and years since school, it’s just absolutely crazy!”
Reflecting on the amazing success of not just Team GB but also Yorkshire, the cyclist beamed: “It’s amazing and it’s great to be a part of history really isn’t. It’s an absolute story.
“It’s great to be a part of it.
“I’m glad I could fetch a medal home but I’m thinking there must be something in the Yorkshire water.
“I do know the Brownlees a little bit because I used to train up in Leeds and I used to go on the track sometimes.
“I don’t think they actually stayed in the village but Nicola (Adams) was in the village and Nile (Wilson) the gymnast and it was nice to be able to just walk around and say hello to the locals!”
As the glory from Brazil sinks in, Marchant is now back with her natural locals in Barwick-in-Elmet, but the national cycling centre in Manchester and then Tokyo – both in the short term and long term – await.
The cyclist is travelling to the far east to step up her education in competing in the women’s keirin event, and anticipates having more than one bite at the cherry when she bids to add to her medal collection in both the women’s sprint, and the keirin at Tokyo 2020.
And amazingly, Marchant has another family member very close by who also shares her Olympic ambition, with 24-year-old sister Amy bidding to climb the British Eventing ranks.
The cyclist explined: “My sister Amy has horses and events and she’s working on quite a few youngsters at the minute but she’s also studying to be a physio, so she’s busy. Mum is full time groom.
“She is at York St John’s studying physio.
“She’s got massive dreams but as people will be aware there’s a lot of money involved in eventing and it’s just finding the money to buy the horses.
“She’s got a few on at the minute and she’s got a lot of projects that she’s working on so we’re backing her all the way. She’ll get there.
“She hasn’t competed at Bramham, she’s never had the right horses at the right time but we live just over the road from Bramham so we are always there and she would love to compete there.
“We used to do heptathlon together so we have always been really competitive, so that’s always quite nice.
“I would absolutely love to get her on that plane to Tokyo with me.”
Assessing her own next moves, Marchant added: “I love riding the keirin so hopefully come Tokyo the selection process will be a bit simpler and we will have another rider in the keirin as well, and I’ll be the one riding.
“I’m going to Japan on September 21 to go to keirin school so I will spend seven weeks out over in Japan just on my own, riding my bike and just living the dream really. I’m looking to go on to the next Olympics and the next Olympics after that. As long as my body holds up I’ll keep going. I’m only 23 so I’m good to go.”