Finucane downplays Pendleton comparisons ahead of Paris 2024

Finucane, 20, was the breakout star of the UCI World Championships in Glasgow
Finucane, 20, was the breakout star of the UCI World Championships in Glasgow

By Tom Harle

Olympic champion Emma Finucane insists she’s ready for everything that comes with a whirlwind Olympic year - except comparisons to Victoria Pendleton.

The 20-year-old was the breakout star of the UCI World Championships in Glasgow, crowned Britain’s first world champion in women’s sprint for a decade.

Carmathen’s Finucane followed in the footsteps of compatriot Becky James in winning global gold and fuelling hope for a golden Olympic debut.

“I’m definitely going to use this momentum from becoming world champion,” said Finucane.

“With the times I’ve put down, it’s all positive going into the Paris Olympics.

“I’m excited. I’m going into it with an open mind. We’re incredibly well supported and we have a great group of girls in the women’s sprint squad.

“As the Games get closer, things might change but for now, I’m just going to see what happens I guess.”

Pendleton won six world sprint titles but the last British rider to do so was James, who struck gold in Minsk in 2013.

Since that golden era, British women’s sprinting has waxed and waned and Team GB haven’t qualified to compete at the Olympics since London 2012.

Finucane, whose potential is compared to that of Pendleton, said: “Since coming into sprinting in the last two or three years, I’ve massively looked up to Vicky and Becky, who is Welsh too, which is really special.

“I’ve got a really long way to go to be anywhere close to them because they are huge and they’ve done so much for the women’s programme.

“It’s exciting that it’s come back around now. We’re no longer the weakest link in British cycling, we are producing medals and great times and we are up there.

“I’m really excited to see what happens in Paris, and there’s still a lot of work to do.”

As Finucane plots a path to next summer’s Games, she will have a different coach to the one that guided her to glory in Glasgow.

Kaarle McCulloch, a four-time sprint world champion herself, has presided over the revival of the British women’s programme but will soon step down to return to her native Australia.

“Towards the end of the World Championships, I was starting to get a bit sad because I knew it was my last race with (Kaarle) and she’s leaving soon,” said Finucane.

“At the same time, becoming world champion with her and for her, it feels like such a great achievement.

“She’s only been coaching me for a year and a half and she’s turned the programme around. I’ve learned so much from her and I’ll take all of that forward.

“Change is good. I’m excited for a new coach and to see what they can bring to the women’s sprint side. It’s bittersweet.”

A holiday is first on the agenda for Finucane, who heads to Girona next week, offering a chance to reflect on a whirlwind week and only her second-ever World Championships.

Finucane rode the final lap and guided Britain to silver in the three-rider team sprint, before crashing out of the keirin and then recovering to claim a historic gold in the individual sprint.

The mounting expectation as the event wore on is a good guide for Finucane to the kind of pressure that awaits in Paris.

“Some of my times in training showed that I had good legs,” she said. “Knowing you can do it is one thing, putting it out on the track is another. To win gold was a surprise, in a good way.

“As the competition goes on, people come up to you say, ‘you could win this’ and it can be quite scary. So many people are supporting you and behind you and that expectation grows.

“I knew I could do it but I didn’t know how. I do now.”

With the support of their 140,000 members British Cycling is providing more opportunities than ever for people to discover the joy of cycling, from grassroots to gold medals. Support their work and enjoy a host of exclusive benefits by becoming a member from just £26 a year