Cyclist Katie Archibald has paid tribute to the support she received from the SSE Next Generation programme and SportsAid on her journey towards winning gold on her Olympic debut. Katie, who claimed victory in the women’s team pursuit in Rio, was selected as one of the first Next Generation athletes when the programme began back in 2013.
After an early sporting career as a swimmer, Katie switched to track cycling in 2011, as a 17-year-old, and rapidly rose to prominence. In 2012 she won the junior national pursuit title and took second in the points race, before making the step up to senior racing in 2013 and finishing third in the British individual pursuit championship.
It was in November 2013, having been supported by SportsAid, through the SSE Next Generation programme, that Katie was selected for the British Cycling senior academy after spending the previous season working as a telesales operator in her family’s business. And it was that period, before receiving British Cycling and National Lottery funding, that Katie thinks was key to her current success.
“I’m really grateful for the support from SSE and SportsAid," said the world team pursuit record holder. "They do a lot of work with developing young athletes and that’s really important. I’ve been helped by the British Cycling programme now for the last three years, which is a huge support.
"Before that was available you get in no man’s land between trying to make that leap from amateur to the big leagues at the Olympics – so they’re a really useful leapfrog. They try and help those that have maybe been overlooked, so it’s really something to applaud.”
Having only been home from Rio for a little more than a month, Katie is already back on the track and in training. But the 22-year-old from Milngavie, who received SportsAid support having been nominated by British Cycling, admitted she took some time to get away from it all on her return from Brazil.
“I went on a holiday pretty soon after we got back from Rio, so I’ve been a bit separate from it all and I’m back to training now so it’s almost normal life,” she added. “To be honest I’ve kind of lost touch with that gold medal moment because I’ve told the story so many times that I don’t know if it’s real anymore.
“I know that we were going into the gold medal final, but crossing the line you still had that moment of disbelief because you don’t stop to think of the greater ramifications of what that win means compared to all other wins – it was very special.”
Katie may have come to terms with being an Olympic champion, but she was surprised by the margin of victory her and team-mates Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell-Shand and Elinor Barker, enjoyed over the USA in the team pursuit final. Team GB beat their rivals by more than a second.
“I was pretty shocked to see the gap we had on the Americans, we thought it was going to be a lot tighter,” she said. “We’d been fairly close to each other going through the previous rounds, so we were expecting a close final.
“It seems silly when you say it aloud because for the last few years our target has been a 4:10, and that’s exactly what we did, but we didn’t really believe it would come at the time. Since Rio life has been a lot more social. There are still celebrations going on, I’ve only just had a family get together this past weekend, so there’s been a lot of passing around the medal.”
SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen.