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Laura Trott: Emerging from the shadows
Four years ago, when watching the Beijing Olympics at home, cyclist Laura Trott never imagined that come London it would be her name on the team sheet. Then, aged just sixteen, London wasn’t even a dream, and it was Rio 2016 she had her sights on. Sportsister’s Louise Hudson caught up with her to find out how so much can change in one Olympiad.
Since moving up the ranks to the British Cycling senior programme just last year, this 5ft powerhouse has become one of Great Britain’s strongest contenders across all sports for winning double gold. Yes, that’s right, Trott is not just tipped for one medal, but two. I
n Beijing Britain dominated in the velodrome claiming twelve medals, seven of those gold. Sir Chris Hoy earned his knighthood thanks to his three gold medal winning rides. But things are different now – new regulations mean fewer GB athletes can compete in any one event and even Sir Chris will be over the moon if he manages a double gold this time round. Which makes it all the more remarkable that this petite 20-year-old from Hertfordshire is in with a chance.
“It’s pretty mad really,” she laughs. “I would never have expected 2012 to be a year that I could even have competed in the Olympics. Because of my age everyone told me I would be too young. It’s all pretty surreal.”
Largely unknown outside of cycling circles, Laura has found herself in the spotlight following her medal winning performances at both the London test event back in February and April’s Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne.
Although the final team selection won’t be officially announced until two weeks before the Games, she is set to compete is part of the team pursuit and also in the omnium event – both of which she was crowned world champion in April.
In fact, Laura has never stood on the podium at World or European level in any other position than gold – since breaking through in 2010 she has racked up a staggering six European and World gold medals.
The GB women’s team pursuit are without doubt the ones to beat right now. Since the event was introduced into the world championship programme five years ago GB has won four times, most recently with a world record beating ride in Melbourne. Even more impressive is that it was their own world record they beat – set in qualifying earlier that same day.
“Breaking the world record in qualifying, that was a massive thing for us,” Laura tells me. “We’d never ridden that fast in training. It was good to experience that before the Olympics because it just shows that no matter how quick we go in training we can still go quicker.”
Starting on opposite sides of the velodrome, two teams of three race against each other to complete 3km the fastest, chasing down the opposing
team. Riders take it in turns to lead their team for around half a lap before moving to the back of the team to let a rider with fresh legs take the lead.
But who those three riders will be still remains to be seen. In Melbourne it was Trott and fellow youngsters Dani King and Jo Rowsell who rode to glory, but this was at the omission of veteran Wendy Houvenaghel, a three-time world gold medallist in the event, giving selectors a headache for London 2012.
“It can be hard because you’re constantly fighting for places in training but that just makes you better as a team,” Laura says. “We all get on really well and it just means you are always going to get quicker because you are pushing for places.”
Whoever makes the final three, Laura believes it will be Australia, Canada and New Zealand who will pose the biggest threat this summer.
“We’re still going to train just as hard and the times are going to get quicker – I can’t imagine that world record is going to stand at the Olympics. It will probably get broken again, so we just need to concentrate on how to get quicker.
I mean, the sky’s the limit. We just need to keep doing what we do best.”
But this won’t be Trott’s only shot at gold. She will also be lining up for the omnium – a six-ride event that is making its Olympic debut in London. After victory in Melbourne – her first world individual title – she even earned the praise of the top man at British Cycling Dave Brailsford.
“She’s pretty special,” Brailsford said after her victories. “She was absolutely brilliant in the team pursuit and she rode a faultless omnium. Super talent – 19-years-old. Wow. It’s pretty exciting.”
Laura laughs and says, “When I read that I was a bit like ‘whoa…Really?’ It was really nice to hear, I mean, everyone likes to hear a bit of praise from their boss!”
Described as the decathlon of the velodrome, six events are contested over two days meaning it takes a strong all round cyclist to compete. There is a 250m flying lap; a 20km points race (“my least favourite because you have to concentrate for a really long time”); a 3km individual pursuit; a 10km scratch race; a 500m time trial (“definitely my favourite, it’s my best event!”) and an elimination race.
The latter is fast becoming Laura’s signature event after two hugely entertaining rides in London and Melbourne that saw her win fans the world over. But despite her strong background in the omnium – a bronze at the World Cup in Cali last year, another bronze at the London test event and then gold in Melbourne – she somewhat surprisingly revealed she doesn’t even train for this event.
“Obviously my dream is to win two gold medals in London. But because I don’t train for the omnium and my heart lies with the pursuit, I really want to win the team pursuit with the girls. And… yeah… I’ll just take what comes in the omnium.” Take what comes?
It’s an amazingly refreshing and considered approach from a girl tipped for great things, but clearly she still has both feet firmly planted on the ground.
“The team pursuit is so much more controlled,” she explains. “It’s up to you how you ride and other than a puncture, which would get a re-start anyway, it’s all in your control. However, with the omnium, anything can happen – one rider can crash and then that’s it, game over. So I’m putting all my eggs in one basket, as it were, and just training for the team pursuit.”
Perhaps this level-headed approach comes down to being surrounded by good people – she is trained by ex-Olympian Paul Manning and has a close knit family who live just twenty minutes from the Olympic Park. In fact, it’s hermum who is responsible for her getting into cycling after she took it up to lose some weight.
Regular trips to Welwyn cycle track saw both Laura and elder sister, Emma – now a professional road cyclist, get hooked.
“She’s always there for me and it’s good that she does cycle because she understands what I go through. She’s not opinionated, if I say I’m not enjoying it today or I don’t want to do it she won’t turn around and say ‘hey, it’s your job!’ – she’s more supportive.”
Plus she gets to take advice from another rider who knows exactly what it’s like to be tipped as Britain’s next big thing. World and Olympic sprint champion Victoria Pendleton has told Laura to just ignore the hype as it’s outside her control.
And it’s not everyone who gets first-hand advice from their own sporting hero, “I definitely idolise her, and I think everyone would want to achieve what Vicky has.”
It’s not always been a smooth ride for Laura though, as a series of health concerns have punctuated her life. Born with a collapsed lung she spent the first six weeks of her life in intensive care.
Then during her childhood a passion for gymnastics was halted after she fainted mid-air. Plus she has to battle with a stomach problem that means every time she really pushes herself on the bike she vomits afterwards. Although very unpleasant, it’s something she, her coaches and team mates are used to.
“It’s been happening for so long it’s just part of my racing now. My coach and everyone else is used to it. Our carers come over to me with a plastic bag at the end just waiting for it to happen.”
Dismissing my concerns without a second thought, it’s easy to see how this likeable, determined and ambitious
cyclist has got so far in such a short space of time. And if she does succeed in achieving an Olympic double the world had better watch out because a new stellar sports star will have been born.
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
adidas athlete Laura Trott will #takethestage at London 2012. Show your support with the official adidas Team GB wristband RRP £7, visit www. adidas.co.uk/shop