Britain gets great haul of cycling medals

Success at the UCI Track World Championships as young riders shine

Published in the Edinburgh Journal newspaper 6 March.

Credit: British Cycling
Credit: British Cycling

Great Britain are brimming with confidence in their form for the start of this seasons Track Cycling events, convincingly topping the medals table in Belarus.

Performance director Dave Brailsford can accept more plaudits for this result as he continues churning out the champions. The man behind the scenes has been transforming Great Britain from an island defined by football and the Premiership into a cycling powerhouse. First Team Sky, then the Olympic cycling performances, followed by Tiernan-Locke and his Tour of Britain win. Last week, Brailsford revealed a shiny new crew of track cyclists that took home nine medals and five world titles from the UCI Track World Championships in Minsk, Belarus.

The event in Minsk was the first on the long road to the Olympics in Rio in 2016 while there were encouraging starts for Team GB’s main rivals Australia and Germany who also performed. Leading the procession for the UK was 21-year-old Becky James, a newly crowned double world champion (keirin and individual sprint) and owner of two bronze medals from the 500m time-trial and team sprint.

The young British squad of men and women racked up the results over the five-day track competition. Victoria Williamson won bronze with teammate Becky James in the team sprint, Elinor Barker, Dani King and Laura Trott took gold in the team pursuit and Trott also secured a silver in the omnium. In the men’s competition, Jason Kenny won gold in keirin, Simon Yates triumphed in the points race world championship while Burke, Clancy, Harrison and Tennant together won silver in the team pursuit.

The competition revealed just how strong Great Britain is looking and is being touted as a harbinger for Rio 2016. The stunning female performances that saw each of the five British women at the world championships bring back a medal will encourage a leap in the right direction in the struggle to increase support and sponsorship among female competitors. It seems Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton will not be missed as much as was first thought as the next generation of young track riders step up to take their place. Neighbours Ireland won a gold and silver at the event, making rider Martin Irvine the first Irishman to win a World Track Championship gold in 117 years.

Next year’s World Championship will be held in Colombia, where the world can see if Great Britain can retain their titles as the countdown continues towards the next Olympics.

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Golden’s Titanic Dive

Scuba diving is Ireland’s latest sporting obsession and there is no better man to pitch it to the people than Dublin diver Rory Golden. He was the first Irish diver to explore the Titanic’s remains and the first person to touch the steering wheel since its late captain. He has swapped careers from MD of Virgin Records, Ireland to jointly running Portroe Diving Center Ltd in Tipperary – Ireland’s first Inland diving centre- and he is the Founder & Managing Director of Flagship Scubadiving Ltd., Dublin. More people have been into outer space then to the ocean depths he has been.

“I did my first dive in Dalkey Sound in 1976 and from that moment on I was hooked. I have dived the whole coastline of Ireland and in every county since. I was just always fascinated with the underwater world, being born in the Jacques Cousteau-Silent World era. The thought of breathing under water still fascinates me.”

For Golden, it started out as a hobby, but with his bank of contacts it was possible to develop it into a business.From there on in, it snowballed and he landed the Titanic gig in the summer of 2000. Rory’s job was to oversee the safe retrieval of the submersibles MIR 1 and MIR 2 from the sea after surfacing from the irregular trips to the sea bed.The expedition raised hundreds of new artefacts from nearly 4,000 metres depth below the Atlantic Ocean.In August of 2005, he made a repeat visit, bringing memorial plaques from Belfast to place on the bridge of the ship, alongside one he had left from Cobh in August 2000.
“It took 2 and a half hours just to get to the bottom so you wouldn’t want to be claustrophobic. It was an amazing experience and that feeling of being apart of a unique few is indescribable.”

His favourite diving spot is off the Connemara coast; “It’s a fantastic place. The Irish do not realize the extent of this country’s potential, they assume our waters are not clear but in the right conditions its got  40 to 50m of visibility, that’s incredible. Ireland’s waters are host to a huge variety of life, with the use of a torch, you can access amazing colours and with the right equipment it’s not even that cold.”
Ireland has an untapped market for scuba diving. Golden allows; “because scuba diving is not a spectator activity like surfing, it doesn’t have the same appeal. However, it could definitely be pushed as a diving destination.Its popularity is growing as people are learning how to dive abroad, then coming home to experiment with what Ireland has to offer.”

Golden is not just a diver, he is an adventurer. He recently climbed Mt. Blanc in France in aid of the ISPCC and did a skydive.Rory will be giving a presentation at The Adventure Weekend Expo in the RDS in late May. The PADI scuba diving association will also have stall, so if you’re thinking of taking up scuba diving, come along.