SOME athletes wear their hearts on their sleeves. Katie Archibald wears her flag on her head.
The 20-year-old from Milngavie, who is competing in five cycling events in Glasgow, is normally part of the Team GB set-up. But as part of her preparation for representing Scotland, she has had her hair dyed blue and white.
Her frequent changes of hair colour have helped heighten Archibald’s profile, and there is no denying that she takes a lighthearted, at times almost whimsical, approach to life. But at the same time she takes her work extremely seriously, and, with five events to take part in, she has one of the heaviest workloads of any member of the Scottish team.
Indeed, she has even taken her hairdying more seriously this time, employing a professional to do it – even if the professional in question was a Mancunian stylist who was itching to add some red to Archibald’s head and make it a tribute to the Union Jack instead.
“It’s usually about £2.50 out of a can,” she said yesterday after training at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. “You can tell me it looks fantastic and very professional because it was about five times the price. We had a holding camp in Manchester while the Glasgow track has been done up. We actually went to a guy who does quite a lot of the GB squad.
“I had [Scotland team-mate] Charline Joiner with me as a guide, a monitor to make sure nothing went wrong. She’s a better people person than I am so it was safer to have her with me.
“I had to explain it was just the Scottish flag I wanted – usually it has a bit of red in. I had to bring out the Saltire and say where I was off to.”
Another change could be on the way soon, because Archibald has agreed to dye her hair gold should she win a medal of that colour. She is competing in the individual pursuit, the points race and the scratch race on the track, then the time trial and the road race outside around the city. She is talented enough to be a realistic contender in any of the five events, though on paper there are a couple in the velodrome where her chances are strongest.
“The individual pursuit on Friday is my big target,” she said. “I can specifically train for myself and don’t have to think about things like in the points race where things happen you may not be able to do anything about, like crashes or people doing strange stuff.
“The points race is my other big target. It’s a thrilling tactical event.
“Right now [in training] I’m going to be doing pursuit efforts, training specifically trying to dial into that. The gear, this track, the splits we’re looking at.
“I’ll let my mind open up to the points race once we’ve finished with the pursuit. The scratch will be a good leg opener, the adjustment to the bounce, see how everyone is riding.
Then be ready to hit it for the points.
“The closer you get to competition the higher the peaks and troughs are in terms of your mentality. You’ll have a really good day and be flying. This morning I had a really good session: I feel really positive and I’m convinced nothing is ever going to bring me down.
“Equally it means the lows are pretty low because of the stress that’s with it. You can only focus on the process – that’s the line that gets bashed around. That’s what I’m doing and so far every step has gone pretty well.”
Given the number of events she has entered, it is no surprise that Archibald’s involvement lasts for almost the whole Games, which is a contrast to others whose efforts will be over after the first few days of competition.
Those others include some of the team-mates with whom Archibald is sharing a flat in what is now known as Scotland Street in the athletes’ village. “I’m staying with the judo players and the triathletes, who I believe are finished by the end of this week, so it’s going to be a tricky one.
“I’m hoping they’ll be out so late that I’ll be in such a deep sleep by the time they come back I won’t even notice. I’m sharing a room with Anna Turvey, who’s doing the time trial, so that’s me sorted with somebody with the same kind of intentions until at least next Thursday. I don’t know if she’ll go off the rails after that.
“It’s going to be tricky . . . No, it’s not going to be tricky. I’ll just focus on my goals. Yeah, just be ready for a big blowout at the closing ceremony.”
Well, either be ready for a big blowout, or be tired after those five events to do anything but sleep. Archibald is certainly going to throw everything she has into the Games, although that lighthearted approach will ensure that she never becomes too earnest about the whole thing.
“It’s the biggest event of my life, it’s a home Commonwealth Games, it’s my first inter-sport event,” she said when asked how she was coping with the mounting pressure and anticipation. “I’ve had a few sleepless nights. But I won’t be coming out with tears in my eyes.”