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It took an injury for Aylesbury track cyclist Josie Knight to stop and take stock of what has happened to her, writes Tom Harle.
The 25-year-old’s career has been a runaway train in the last 18 months and that’s how she speaks, quickly narrating a stream of fortunate events and conflicting emotions.
The upshot of it all is that Knight is an Olympic silver medallist standing on the cusp of her first Commonwealth Games - hardly the usual order of things.
It turns out that a broken elbow was the only thing that would force Knight to start processing a remarkable ride.
“I’ve done my career backwards,” she said.
“It’s hard to stop and reflect and be like, ‘wow, look how far I’ve come’ because there’s always the next competition.
“You don’t have the chance to look back on how fantastic things have been. With the injury, I was initially frustrated not to be able to train and do so much.
“It gave me the chance to realise I never believed I’d go to Tokyo. I’ve been able to appreciate how far I’ve come.
“It’s incredibly special to be going to the Commonwealth Games. I’ve come on a lot as a rider in the last year and I’m feeling more confident of my place in the team.
“For a while, I was the extra who just popped up, was I going to be good enough. We’re in a great place as a group now moving forward.”
Born in Buckinghamshire, Knight’s family moved to County Kerry, Ireland when she was 18 months old.
Team England reveal 35-strong cycling team set to compete at 2022 Commonwealth Games pic.twitter.com/KEmk6QVhcB
— British Cycle Sport (@VeloUK) June 15, 2022
She raced for her adopted country until after the Rio 2016 Olympics when she tried to break into British Cycling for the second time having missed out as a junior.
In early 2020, coaches told Knight that she needed to ride sub-3:34 for the 3000m individual pursuit to get a place on the programme. She had one chance and clocked 3:33.707.
Knight is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science, and medical support.
An injury to Laura Kenny, Britain’s greatest female Olympian, at the 2020 World Championships opened the door and Knight took her chance.
In an interview at the time, she said: “My goals for the year as an academy rider were the Lincoln GP and maybe a Belgian race.
“Within hours it was about aero training and a skinsuit fitting and looking ahead to the Olympics.”
Knight rode all three rounds in Tokyo as Team GB earned team pursuit silver behind Germany, who won gold in world record time.
She won individual pursuit bronze at her first Track World Cup in Glasgow earlier this year, paving the way for that solo event to be her focus at a maiden Commonwealth Games.
“It’s a very honest event, isn’t it,” she said. “You’re by yourself, doing 12 laps as fast as you can.
“There aren’t any external factors that can influence your result, it’s just going as hard as you can for 3km.
“The technical side of it, the strategy, whether you’re going to go hard and die off or evenly-pace it. I find it fascinating.”
“Riding for England is a big honour. It’s going to be one of the biggest events of the year, for sure." 🦁🚴♀️
Josie Knight's career has been a whirlwind in the last 18 months, read all about it here: https://t.co/o54pJXt8Jp#BringItHome #PartofthePride
— Team England (@TeamEngland) July 4, 2022
Team GB’s Tokyo team pursuit quartet will be split in half for the Commonwealth Games, where track cycling events will be held in the London 2012 velodrome.
Knight and Kenny will compete for England while Katie Archibald and Neah Evans represent Team Scotland.
“I find it tricky,” she said. “Katie and Neah are targeting the individual pursuit too and now I’m against them!
“I’m excited to compete against them. They’re suddenly my competitors and it becomes a different dynamic.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise over 400 athletes. Having secured her place on the squad, Knight is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
She has already got a taste of the big time and is enthused by the prospect of a first Commonwealth Games.
“Riding for England is a big honour,” she said. “It’s going to be one of the biggest events of the year, for sure, it’s the multi-sport format and riding for your home nation.
“My grandad is the proudest English person I know, and he will be chuffed, to be doing it for him is very special. This is a massive deal for me.”
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