Katy Marchant confident of qualifying for Tokyo Olympics

Katy Marchant is in confident mood as she heads to the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin this week still needing to qualify for the women’s sprint events at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Rio bronze medallist has been flying of late, but will need to be as she looks to lock down her place in the individual sprint and keirin for Tokyo after Britain abandoned hope of qualifying for the team event last year.

That decision allowed Marchant to focus purely on the individual events and the results have followed, highlighted by her emotional keirin victory in the Glasgow leg of the World Cup in November.

“Glasgow was such a nice glimmer of success,” Marchant said. “Every now and then you do question it, ‘I hope I can do this, are things going in the right direction?’ So to get that win in the keirin and the PB in the (individual sprint) shows that what we’ve been doing is working.

“That’s just a confidence boost going forward and you’re able to take that into training. When you’re a little bit more confident on a day-to-day basis you’re able to get more out of yourself.”

But though Marchant’s results have improved, they have not yet been enough to secure an Olympic place for Great Britain.

The 27-year-old benefited hugely from taking on a less taxing World Cup schedule than last winter, but while sitting out the final leg in Canada last month she saw results go against Britain in the complicated qualification process.

With qualification for the team sprint bringing an automatic place for the individual events, it may yet be that Marchant’s job is done for her.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Day Eleven
Marchant took Olympic bronze in the individual sprint in Rio four years ago (David Davies/PA)

If New Zealand can out-perform either Lithuania or Poland in the team sprint by a big enough margin to dislodge one from the top eight of the standings, an individual place will filter down to Britain.

If not, the British trio of Marchant, Lauren Bate and Sophie Capewell will either need to beat France on points in the individual sprint – in which they will have two riders to France’s one – or beat both the United States and Colombia in the keirin.

Even if New Zealand do Britain a favour, the calculators will still be out for the individual events as Kiwi success would open up the possibility of Britain qualifying a second rider for the Games.

“It’s moving goalposts,” Marchant said. “A lot of it is out of our control. For us it’s about making sure all three riders that go to the World Championships are fully prepared to to be able to give their best.”

Life would of course be easier if Britain’s hopes of qualifying for the team event had panned out, but after the controversial departure of Jess Varnish from the programme and the retirement of Becky James, it proved an uphill struggle.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Day Eight
Becky James took Olympic silver in the individual sprint and keirin in Rio, but retired in 2017 (David Davies/PA)

“We were just thin on the ground after the Rio Olympics,” said Marchant, a former heptathlete who switched to cycling full-time in 2013. “With Becky leaving, I was the sole rider. Then we had two or three academy riders and that is not enough to produce an Olympic gold winning team.”

The situation placed huge burdens on Marchant, both physically as she travelled to every leg of the World Cup last winter chasing qualifying points, and mentally as she shouldered the hopes of the team.

“That was hard to be part of, but the clarification of going full-steam ahead for individual events has been quite nice this year,” she said.

“It’s shown in my individual performances that I’m so much better now focusing solely on them. It’s disappointing but in some ways it was an advantage to myself.

“It is a team event, I need everyone around me, but it’s me, myself and I when I get on the track and that’s a fortunate place to be I think.”

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