08 December 2023

SportsAid's One-to-Watch Award shortlist: Archie Atkinson

Archie Atkinson’s first World Championship title came in the wake of his world being turned upside down. The 19-year-old para cyclist from Heaton Moor was preparing to take part in the Glasgow showpiece when he found out about the passing of his close friend Magnus White in a training accident. With the help of a team psychiatrist and his family, Archie powered through the grief to win gold in the C4 scratch race before later clinching C4 road race bronze, all while carrying messages in memory of Magnus in his shoes and on his jersey.

Archie Atkinson

"Glasgow was mentally challenging," said Archie. "Losing one of my best mates the day before the competition started meant my mental state wasn't really in the right place for the first few days. It was the first major death I've had in my life, but I worked out a way to use it as firepower and did it for him. The notes in my shoes and on my jersey meant he always had my back. It really helped me through and made me feel like I was supernatural.

"The one in my track shoes said: '#RideforMagnus. Magnus flies high. I'm ripping round the velo in your honour. This is for you. Love you bro."

"And the road race note said: 'Every turn of the pedals, every change of gear, every move in the peloton is for you Magnus'.

"I remember the gold like it was yesterday. On that last lap, I couldn't give in.

"It took me a while to realise I had won but it was incredible.”

Archie was born to cycle, with his dad’s job in the bike shop Evans Cycles leading to a love for pedalling fast as a child.

"For Christmas, it would always be a new bike or something," he said.

"I remember we had an au pair when we were kids, and I would always speed off in front of them on our cycle to school.

"They would turn around to my parents afterwards and tell them that I was 'dangerous'!

"I started out on BMX and then did a bit of speedway before I found the track."

The cyclist even had a memorable first step into a velodrome, with the help of the man whose name lends itself to the Glasgow velodrome which now holds such fond memories.

"I was first taught to ride a track bike by Chris Hoy, which is a pretty cool thing to be able to say," he added.

"My first time on a track bike was a one-to-one session with Chris where he taught be about banking, that you shouldn't stop pedalling and all that. It's all on YouTube, I believe.

"Chris wanted to launch Hoy Bikes with Evans Cycles and wanted to make an affordable track bike for kids. I was quite lucky because of my dad and was the kid they used during the filming day.

"I've known him since I was about seven, which is so cool."

Archie has enjoyed a remarkable first year on the senior circuit, with three national titles, 10 road and time trial victories and two World Cup podiums.

Following his incredible success during such challenging times, Archie has been shortlisted in the top 10 for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award.

The annual Award, launched in 2006, recognises Britain’s brightest young sporting prospects and has previously been won by Olympic champions Tom Daley and Alex Yee and Paralympic gold medallist Hollie Arnold.

The top 10 athletes have been selected from around 1,000 rising stars, supported by SportsAid, across more than 60 different sports in 2023.

The teenager, who left school early last summer to focus on his cycling, is now looking ahead to another busy year on the circuit and hopes to qualify for his maiden Paralympics in Paris next summer.

Archie, who received his SportsAid support from Marsh this year, said: "The aim next year is to retain my World Championship title, but the Paralympics are the big one.

"No-one goes to a Paralympics not wanting to come home with a gold medal, so my aim is to come home with gold in either the time trial or individual pursuit.

"I want to be able to sit down with my grandkids when I'm 80 and tell them I was the greatest Paralympian Britain has ever had.

"And I want to inspire other kids with disabilities, to let them know that a disability doesn't hold you back."

SportsAid’s annual One-to-Watch Award is powered by Royal Bank of Canada – a long-standing supporter of the charity celebrating 10 years of partnership in 2023. The winner of this year’s Award will be revealed in December with each of the top 10 receiving cash boosts and special in-person visits at their training environments to celebrate their achievements.    

Photo Credit – with thanks to British Cycling