Katy Marchant overcomes post-Rio blues to set sights on gold at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
LEEDS cyclist Katy Marchant thought she had achieved a lifelong aim at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
With an individual sprint bronze medal around her neck, the former Brigshaw High School pupil began to reminisce.
“I was thinking I have got an Olympic medal now and that’s all I could have ever dreamed of,” she said.
Yet by her own admission, complacency set in. Marchant then had a rethink.
“What I actually really always dreamed of was becoming an Olympic champion.
“It was finding the motivation to go out and make sure that you put yourself in the best position possible to try and achieve that.”
After a turbulent few years, Marchant has done just that - with the cyclist finally back on top of the podium at the UCI Track World Cup leg in Glasgow at the weekend and now targeting not one, but two golds at her second Olympics in Tokyo next year.
Marchant exceeded all expectations at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by taking an individual sprint bronze at a sporting extravaganza that the Leeds star did not think she would even be competing at.
Yet the unexpected success, says Marchant, in itself led to an unforeseen downturn with the cyclist citing post Olympic blues as a factor in a series of below par results on the track.
Some days were particularly tough - Marchant readily admitting there were days when she questioned in which direction she was heading - but she and her team regrouped and then took the decision to put herself first and focus on individual exploits as opposed to team forays.
Last weekend’s success in Glasgow offered huge hope of that decision proving to be a pretty smart move.
The 26-year-old was left beaming after winning her first bike race since the National Championships at the start of 2018 in taking gold in the women’s keirin. In addition, she recorded a personal best as part of a fifth-placed finish in the individual sprint.
Amazingly, Marchant’s sprint time clocked at Glasgow bettered the effort returned in taking bronze at Rio.
The world, says the cyclist, has moved on, but so too has Marchant who is back feeling better than ever and now hoping to top the podium in both the keirin and the individual sprint in Tokyo.
“It’s been frustrating for sure and a difficult period,” Marchant told the YEP.
“I had days where I thought I don’t know if this is for me or I don’t know if this is ever going to pay off, or I’m not really sure where this is going.
“But it was very much about the longer process and British Cycling are really good about keeping you task focused and explaining and showing that the Olympics is the main goal and that creating stepping stones along the way is how you are going to get there.
“After Rio it maybe took me a year-and-a-half to two years to actually get my mojo back. Rio was so unexpected that I didn’t prepare for how it was going to feel afterwards.
“You are facing the challenges of getting back into competition and with your last race being an Olympic Games, races don’t quite feel the same and that was really tough.
“But you have just got to trust the process and I sat down with my coaches many times and we made a plan and the ultimate goal was Tokyo, so we have been really strong on focusing on the long-term goal - but with short-term goals along the way.
“It was just an added bonus to be able to win a World Cup.
“Everyone talks about this period after the Olympics, they call it the ‘Olympic blues’ and I never really anticipated that going into Rio.
“All I focused on going into it was that initial race and then after the Olympics it was very much like I feel a bit lost now.
“So it’s definitely a psychological battle and it’s been a psychological battle as well as a physical one getting back to where I am now.”
After beating Germany’s Emma Hinze in a photo-finish in her Glasgow keirin success, not to mention her individual sprint PB, Marchant has no doubt as to exactly where she is now performance wise.
Assessing whether the Katy Marchant of 2019 was better than the Katy Marchant of 2016, the cyclist said: “Significantly.
“I am a different athlete now, I know myself a lot better than I knew myself then and I have learnt a lot over the last few years. It’s really nice actually, I feel like I am really coming into my own.
“Initially, when I started cycling I said that Tokyo was going to be the main goal and Rio was just a stepping stone along the way.
“I never expected to go there and come away with a medal and now we are looking ahead to Tokyo.
“I just did the sprint at Rio but I am definitely looking to ride both the sprint and the keirin in Tokyo.
“I actually went faster at the weekend in the final in the sprint then I did at the Olympics, so that puts us in great stead moving forward.
“We have focused really hard over the summer to get quicker and we are definitely getting quicker, so that’s a real nice result as well.
“At the end of last season we decided to make a call on whether we were going to commit to the team sprint qualification or whether we were going to focus on the individual and it just so happened that we weren’t where we needed to be in the team sprint.
“We were missing a bit of strength in depth in the team and I made the call that I wanted to focus solely on individual events and it’s really nice to get a result in the individual events when that’s been a big focus for quite some time now.”
Buoyed by her Glasgow success and feeling strong after her recent training, Marchant was even able to afford herself a few days off this week.
After a forthcoming winter training camp in Australia and outing in the penultimate UCI World Cup race in Brisbane, all roads then lead to next February’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, where Marchant will hope to seal her qualification spot for Tokyo.
“Basically they take your best three results from a World Cup which gives you points going into a World Championship,” she explained.
“Qualification is actually done solely on nation ranking, so we are really fortunate now that we are in a position where we have got Sophie Capewell riding in the World Cups as well.
“She has been collecting points along the way and all of our points will add together.
“I think we are in a really comfortable position. Now it’s just making sure that we get the right training in ahead of the World Championships because there’s massive points up for grabs at the World Championships next year and that’s where you can capitalise on that.”
There is, though, quite clearly one sole aim as far as 2020 is concerned - notwithstanding Marchant and her fiancée Rob’s wedding in Santorini at the end of the year.
By then she hopes she will be walking down the aisle as a double Olympic champion with the Yorkshire star relishing the challenge of taking on two different events.
“It’s actually been really nice,” said Marchant, reflecting on how the demands of training have now changed.
“Going into Rio I only really focused on the sprint and the training is not too dissimilar which is quite nice.
“There’s a little bit more length, harder training and longer efforts involved in the keirin but it actually really suits me and that’s one of my strengths.
“It’s been nice to get a variation on training and just have two different things to focus on.”
Assessing which event might be her best hope, Marchant pondered: “I think it’s really hard to say. The keirin is one of those where obviously anything can happen.
“There’s a lot more people within a race and stuff so accidents happen. But my ultimate aim is to win gold in both.”