That was seven months ago and the Scottish cyclist has not looked back since, vindicating his decision to pack in his job and focus on winning a place on Team Scotland for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which get under way this week.
“It was on the night shift, I was on my tea break and I was sat there,” he recalled. “It was blowing a gale, it was raining and I was like ‘nah, there’s more to life than this, I’m going to give this a go!’ I went up to the TV lounge, turned the TV off, and said: ‘how does this sound? I’m going to phone in the morning and ask for a sabbatical, I’m going to attempt to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and I’m going to go to the Commonwealth Games 2018’. They were all like: ‘ah, what a load of… rubbish… what you talking about… that’ll never happen’. I was like; ‘aye aye, ok’.”
But in the cold light of day, he decided to live the dream, gained the support of his bosses, and with exactly six months to meet the qualifying standards, he swapped his life as a plumber and pipefitter, who spent three weeks at a time on a rig, training on a wattbike in the gym, for that of a full-time athlete, attacking the track and the roads as he built towards top level.
“It was cutting it fine,” acknowledged the 29-year-old from Alness. “For someone who had limited track time and limited track racing experience, to go from a personal best of four minutes 36 [for the 4000m individual pursuit] to try to do a sub four minutes 25 in six months, it was a big ask. But I believed I could do it at the time and that’s half the battle. If you believe you can do it you can achieve it.
“You had to do the qualification twice and my second one wasn’t done until the British Championships, in January, which was three days before the deadline. So I knew that I had to nail it.”
Competing on the track and then on the road, on Friday Gordon will make his Commonwealth Games debut in the Anna Meares Velodrome in the 4000m individual pursuit qualifying. The whole family are expected to be perched around the television for that one but he accepts they will have other matters on their mind when he competes in the scratch race the following day.
“I’m missing my sister Eilidh’s wedding for the Commonwealth Games! I hadn’t run it by anyone at home. Overnight I just contacted work, came home, told my mother and father who said: ‘oh great, that’s awesome’ but then the word leaked down to Edinburgh where my sister stays. To be honest, I didn’t even know the exact dates for the Commonwealth Games and neither did they but when we checked them out we were like ‘oh my god!’ She gets married on the 7th, the day of the scratch race. But they’ve all been very supportive. I did offer, once I found out, to call it a day, I said I couldn’t miss her wedding. She said ‘no way, you’re doing this’.”
Gordon knows that they will be with him in spirit and he has ensured that he will be with them, too – albeit in cardboard form.
“I’m getting a lifesize cardboard cutout of myself in my Team Scotland kilt sent to her house so she can have it for the wedding!
“I’ve had great support from all the family and friends and I couldn’t have got to this stage without the help of so many people.”