Katie Archibald sets her sights on high five for Scotland

Whisper it, but Katie Archibald could be Scotland's star turn at these Commonwealth Games.
Katie Archibald is ready to fly the flag for Scotland.Katie Archibald is ready to fly the flag for Scotland.
Katie Archibald is ready to fly the flag for Scotland.

The cyclist from Milngavie tends to pedal under the radar. She doesn’t have the profile of our track stars or even our swimmers. But this is an athlete who has been decorated at the highest level.

There are victories at Olympic Games and world championships in her palmares and she is gunning for glory in Gold Coast by entering a remarkable five events.

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Such is her schedule, it seemed to easier to ask which events she was not doing.

“No Taekwondo – this time!” she jokes.

“I’m riding the individual pursuit, the points race, the scratch race, the road time trial and the road race.

“So it’s kind of the unofficial Commonwealth omnium.

“Why? Why, why, why … because I can.”

It seems as good a reason as any. At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow four years ago Archibald won bronze in the points race. She has come a long way since.

As part of Great Britain’s uber-successful team pursuit squad she has won gold at Olympic, world and European level.

Now she is representing Scotland and that brings an extra dimension.

“It means more, emotionally, to win a medal for Scotland,” she acknowledges.

“It is just national pride. Which gets confused into ugly things so often that it’s nice to celebrate it in a friendly sporting context.

“That’s the same whether it’s representing Great Britain or representing Scotland. Even if you’re a kid, representing your region, you take pride in being associated with your friends, with your family, all wearing the same T-shirt, saying that we’re doing this for us.”

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Track is her main thing but don’t discount her on the road as she and her team-mates sees to multi-task her way around Gold Coast.

“The cycling team isn’t as big as we had in Glasgow, obviously because that was at home. So we have three core riders doing all events,” she explains. “Eileen Roe is Scotland’s road star and she’s going to be doing track events, as well. And vice versa … I realise I’ve just implied that I’m the track star!

“I will also be doing the road events. It’s more opportunity. It means you have to focus on not diluting your efforts too far, becoming jack of all trades, master of none.”

The engaging Archibald admits she was considering adding more events to her schedule, much to the alarm of her coaches

“They went mental when I said I wanted to do the Keirin!” she laughs.

The 24-year-old is also a four-time European individual pursuit champion, and with Scotland not entering the team pursuit the former event offers an early shot at gold tomorrow.

“The individual pursuit being at the start of the programme means it’s a big opportunity to focus on that,” she says.”It’s a chance to solidify my name as a world class pursuit rider.

“It’s not gone right for me at the last few World Championships, the individual pursuit – and it’s not an Olympic event.It’s the kind of thing where I turn up to nationals, surprise myself with how well I’m going, then can’t carry it through to the rest of the season.

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“So I’m European individual pursuit champion. But I’ve never figured on the World podium.It’s a chance to stamp my name on the event at the Commonwealth Games.”

Archibald won’t have it all her own way in the individual pursuit, with the Commonwealth nations supplying some of the top riders in this particular discipline.

“The world champion is American [Chloe Dygert], so won’t be there.But classically, for women’s endurance track events, especially the pursuit, America is the only major nation not in the Commonwealth.So it’s the Kiwis, the Aussies and the Canadians who are consistently on those top steps. That has always 
been a big draw for us, the level of competition.”

The Games will also see Archibald come up against some of her erstwhile GB team-mates.

“That’s the funny thing. You can split us three or four ways and we’re still some of the best nations of the event. I’ve always felt quite proud of that.Last time around, I was living with someone in Team England and someone in Team Wales – Elinor Barker and Danni Khan.

“This time, I actually live with [Scotland team-mate] Neah Evans now. So we’ve gone full patriotic with the living arrangements. It’s odd but it works. We compete but we still wake up friends the next morning.”

These Commonwealth Games are extra special for Archibald because she has been joined by her older brother John in the Scotland team. A relatively late convert to cycling, John’s presence adds a dash of sibling rivalry to proceedings.

“My dad winds me up about it all the time, telling me: ‘John trains much harder than you … and he’s working full-time …’

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“I’m guilty of coming home, staying with my dad in Paisley for the weekend, and when I do that I’m coming home for a break – I’m not going to be doing hard training. Inevitably, he turns round and says: “Wow, you don’t train hard at all! You should see what John’s doing!”