A lot of talk has been about the legacy of London 2012 and how sport will benefit from the Olympics, well one of Harris & Ross’ own physiotherapists is taking encouragement from the performance of Team GB as she gets ready for the Commonwealth Games and Glasgow 2014.
Ellie Richardson is already hitting form at the right time, with medals at the British University Track Cycling Championships and clocking times at the competition which are comparable to Victoria Pendleton’s, when she took part in the Championships in preparation for the Athens Olympics.
Here she tells us about how an amateur gets ready for such a massive challenge.
I have only been competing in track cycling for 11 months, after a transition from athletics. I am an ex-Scottish national 200m sprint champion in athletics. Unfortunately, an ankle injury and surgery forced me to retire before the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It was suggested to me a few years prior to this that I try track cycling, but as I was still a competitive sprinter in athletics, I never gave it a shot. After continued injury set backs with my ankle, I decided I had nothing to lose, so gave track cycling a go.
In my first month of track cycling I came away from the British National Track Championships with the third fastest Women’s Team Sprint time and having had the experience of racing GB’s Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish – looking back this was somewhat of a baptism of fire! Six Months later and a little more experienced, I then went on to win two gold medals and a silver medal at the British University Track Championships and was informed I had been the fastest female rider at these games since Victoria Pendleton, coming close to her records in both the 500m tt and the Sprint. I then went on to post further personal bests at a subsequent sprint meet at the National Cycling Centre last Easter.
The British National Track Championships in September this year will mark my year anniversary in the sport – and I can’t believe the last 12 months has gone so quickly!
I am excited about the Nationals this year as I will be going into the championships 100 times more experienced than last time with a year’s training under my belt. But in reality, this year is simply about showing my progression in terms of times and securing my place as a programme athlete for Glasgow 2014 within the Scottish Institute of Sport. As I have shown faster progression in my first year of cycling than the average newcomer and produced power outputs and test data comparable to elite and world class level athletes, I should secure my place as a programme athlete by simply posting personal bests at this year’s Nationals and Scottish Nationals.
So 2012 has really just been about progression, getting to grips with a new sport and finding out what training approaches do and don’t work for me. The selection window for Glasgow 2014 does not open until January next year and stays open until May 2014, so the pressure to make qualification standards is not my main focus this year, it’s all about building a foundation. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t have specific targets this year, because I do. For example, there is rumour that the next British University Championships are to be held in November this year which means I will have my eye on breaking Victoria Pendleton’s records for both the Sprint and the 500m tt. I am also aiming to be the fastest amateur at this year’s British Nationals.
To ensure automatic selection for Glasgow 2014 I need to hit specific time standards within the selection window, these standards are set very high and worked out based on an average (plus a few percent) of podium times posted at this year’s world championships. So as you can imagine, Olympic year saw world records fall thick and fast which, in turn, pushed the selection times lower and lower. So the real challenge for me as an amateur athlete, who is new to the sport, is to show that I can be competitive in the company of full time professional and supported athletes.
In terms of competition, the next two years are where it really starts to get exciting with opportunities to compete for Scotland in world cups as well as travelling abroad to race in Europe and America. For me, as a development athlete, the closer it gets to 2014 the more important it will be to have the opportunity to achieve the qualification standard for Glasgow.
In terms of training and preparation, it’s not just a case of putting the hard work in but also finding time to recover properly between training sessions – a bit of a challenge when you are not a professional athlete! As well as completing a varied training schedule I am currently studying an MSc in Manual Therapy (a specialist strand of musculoskeletal physiotherapy) and working part time at Harris & Ross. With the completion of the Sir Chris Hoy Glasgow Velodrome, which is to be the Commonwealth Venue for Glasgow 2014, I will have to add travelling up and down the country to attend training camps to my already busy schedule!
I have to say here that all this would seem rather daunting if it wasn’t for the support from my partner Simon whose role has evolved over the past year to that of coach. Working for British Cycling and having just worked track centre at this year’s most successful sport of London 2012, Simon has now returned fresh with ideas for the coming year ahead in terms of my training. If it weren’t for the guidance, perspective and sound coaching advice from Simon, I would not have made the substantial gains I have over the past year. I can’t imagine it’s easy fulfilling the role of both partner and coach and knowing when to switch between the two but he always seems to know when to do that and luckily has the patience of saint! Without our partnership on and off the track I would not get the same enjoyment from the sport as I do – sharing the experience with Simon has made my journey so much more meaningful.
In fact, my most memorable event in cycling to date isn’t actually the fact that I got to race multiple world and Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton within my first month of track cycling – although that was a fantastic experience in it’s own right. It was actually coming home a few weeks after my Nana had passed away to find that Simon had had the word “Donny” transcribed onto the top tube of my bike frame. Having recently got myself a new Dolan Sprint Track frame, Simon had asked me what I was going to call her – to which I said “Donny the Dolan.”
My Nana’s first name was Donella, or “Donny” for short and is in fact one of my middle names. A Perthshire woman by birth, Nana never got to see me compete for Scotland in the 2010 Commonwealth Games as a sprinter in athletics. But now I plan to take Donny to Glasgow 2014 as a track sprint cyclist and make up for it.