UCI Para-cycling Track Worlds: Aileen McGlynn out to prove a point in LA

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Aileen McGlynn and Louise Haston
McGlynn and her pilot Louise Haston won a gold and silver at the recent National Track Championships in Manchester

Paralympic champion Aileen McGlynn feels she has something to prove when she lines up at this week's Para-cycling Track World Championships in Los Angeles.

The 43-year-old visually impaired Scot was dropped from the British Cycling funding programme in 2013 and missed the chance to add to her medal tally in Rio last summer.

But McGlynn wants to finish her international career at next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia, and the Worlds is the first big step towards attempting to secure selection.

"I feel I was taken off the plan before I was ready to be," she told BBC Sport. "I think I was cut short and still had more to give.

"We don't have many sprint stokers so to drop one wasn't good. They should have kept us competing against each other to see who the best combination was going forward.

"I have a point to prove and even being selected is helping me get over being dropped all those years ago."

McGlynn the history-maker

Before the likes of Sarah Storey and Kadeena Cox started ruling the velodrome, McGlynn had already secured her place in cycling history.

Born with albinism, which led to her deteriorating sight, she was the first female to join the British Cycling Paralympic programme.

But, while she has always loved cycling, her introduction to the track was not without its problems.

"I remember my first goes on the tandem in the velodrome," she said. "Barney Storey was the pilot and we were doing a flying 200m. When we were going around the banking at speed, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster.

"My stomach was churning and I really didn't know if I liked it."

Despite that shaky start, McGlynn became the first British woman to win a Paralympic cycling gold medal, when she and sighted pilot Ellen Hunter triumphed in the tandem kilo event in Athens in 2004. They also claimed silver in the tandem sprint.

Four years later, Hunter and McGlynn won double gold in Beijing, retaining their kilo title and also taking the 3km pursuit.

After Hunter retired, Helen Scott took over as McGlynn's pilot. They missed out on gold in London, finishing second in the kilo behind Australia and taking bronze in the pursuit.

"Nobody can take those achievements away from me - and I was also world record holder in the kilo event for nine years," said McGlynn.

"I didn't really think it was strange when I was the only female on the squad - I think I thought it was more strange when other females joined!

"When it came to selection time for Athens, although we did have the qualifying standards, GB only had one female spot, and we were the only females on the team, so while it was good that it pushed us on, we probably would have been selected anyway.

"Now the females on the team are fighting among themselves for the spots, which is better."

Making the most of the World Championships

UCI 'making 'mockery' of Para-cycling World Championships

The World Championships, which run from Thursday to Sunday, were organised with just seven weeks' notice, leading to criticism from the likes of Storey and compatriot Jody Cundy.

Only tandem events will be part of next year's Commonwealth programme so, with qualification points up for grabs, the GB team features six tandem pairings who will compete in the sprint, kilo and pursuit events. Cundy and Jon Gildea are the only solo riders.

Having been involved at the elite level since 2003, McGlynn believes more needs to be done to help the sport's development.

"The UCI have been saying since 2008 that they would introduce more World Cup events. I don't see why they can't do it," she said.

"The Commonwealth Games shows it isn't detrimental to have both disabled and non-disabled events running at the same time.

"But it is difficult for tandem stokers who are not in the system to get recognised. I'm surprised there aren't too many coming through and there aren't more visually impaired people wanting to get into tandem riding.

"Also, other able-bodied and sighted athletes like Jody and Sarah can go and compete in non-disabled events but if you are visually impaired or blind, you need to have a tandem and a pilot and it is not so easy."

A last chance to compete for Scotland

McGlynn and pilot Louise Haston teamed up for the first time for the 2014 Commonwealths, winning two silvers in Glasgow, and renewed their partnership when it was decided cycling would be part of the 2018 Games in Gold Coast.external-link

While many of their rivals were training for Rio or enjoying a break afterwards, they were putting in the miles in training.

"Louise and I were back together on the tandem last July so we could be in a good place at the start of 2017 to get the sort of qualification times we would need for Australia," said McGlynn.

"It was amazing to be part of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I feel quite fortunate as an athlete to have ridden in London and then in Glasgow. Having that support was just amazing.

"I think Gold Coast may be my last opportunity to race for Scotland so it will make it special."

McGlynn says she feels "less pressure" for this week's event in Los Angeles, but still wants to do her best.

"It's not like we are going to lose our funding if we don't perform," she said.

"The numbers I am doing in training are similar to what I was doing in 2013 but it is just a matter of getting it all out on the day."

Aileen McGlynn and Louise Haston
McGlynn and Haston want another chance to represent Scotland at a Commonwealths

Top Stories