How Katy Marchant has overcome post-Rio blues and set her sights on gold at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

LEEDS cyclist Katy Marchant thought she had achieved a lifelong aim at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Back on top: Katy Marchant after winning the womens keirin.

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.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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 – getting back on top of the podium at the UCI Track World Cup leg in Glasgow and now targeting two golds at her second Olympics in Tokyo next year.

Marchant exceeded all expectations at the Rio 2016 Olympics by taking an individual sprint bronze at a sporting extravaganza that the track cyclist did not think she would even be competing at.

Yet the unexpected success led to an unforeseen downturn with Marhant 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 the cyclist and her team regrouped and took the decision to put herself first and focus on individual exploits as opposed to team demands.

Last weekend’s success in Glasgow offered huge hope of that decision proving 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 to recording a personal best as part of a fifth-placed finish in the individual sprint.

Amazingly, Marchant’s sprint time bettered even the effort clocked in taking bronze at Rio.

The world, says the cyclist, has moved on, but so, too, has Marchant, who is now hoping to top the podium in both the keirin and the individual sprint at the Olympics next year.

“It’s been frustrating for sure and it has been a difficult period,” Marchant told The Yorkshire Post.

“After Rio, it maybe took me a year-and-a-half to two years to actually get my mojo back. I think 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. The ultimate goal was Tokyo, focusing on the long-term 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.

“All I focused on was that initial race and then, after the Olympics, it was very much like I feel a bit lost now so 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.

“I am a different athlete now,” said Marchant. “I know myself a lot better than I knew myself then and I have learnt a lot over the last few years. I feel like I am really coming into my own.

“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 and we have focused really hard over the summer to get quicker and we are definitely getting quicker.”

Buoyed by her recent success and feeling strong after her recent training, Marchant was able to afford herself a few days off this week.

After a forthcoming winter training camp in Australia and outing in the final World Cup race Down Under, all roads then lead to next February’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in which Marchant will hope to seal her qualification spot for Tokyo.

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, the Leeds ace hopes she will be walking down the aisle as a double Olympic champion.

Assessing which event might be her main hope, Marchant mused: “I think it’s really hard to say. The keirin is a bit more one of those where 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.”