Of the athletes travelling to represent Great Britain in Tokyo this summer, a large proportion will be able to highlight a moment from a previous Olympic or Paralympic Games that truly inspired them towards sporting greatness themselves.
Many young athletes on World Class Programmes will already be able to point to instances from London or Rio which have spurred them on, but Tokyo will be a further opportunity to watch, learn, and add fuel to the fire as they target Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028.
18-year-old Emma Finucane, part of Great Britain’s track cycling team, shares with us what she hopes to gain from watching her team-mates compete for medals out in Japan.
“I currently have the pleasure of training daily alongside the best athletes in the world, but in the past, I remember watching them on the TV.
“I was nine when London 2012 took place, and on holiday in France. However, I still vividly remember watching the track cycling. My sister and I were both into cyclo-cross and road racing at that time, but watching the various events at the Olympics really opened our eyes to different disciplines. We were truly inspired by Laura Kenny as I remember watching her win the omnium in emphatic fashion!
“Four years later, during the Rio Olympics, I was an under-14, racing on the track and the road as an endurance rider. I recall watching the men’s keirin final re-start over and over again before Jason Kenny went on to win the event. I found it truly thrilling, and it inspired me to find out more about certain rules within the sport, which really deepened my knowledge.
“Since then I have switched my focus to specialise in the sprint disciplines – of which the keirin is one – and I have joined British Cycling’s Senior Academy, meaning I’ve moved to Manchester to live as a full-time athlete.
“I have also been given the opportunity to represent Great Britain at various international events, and during my first year a junior I won a European title and two silver medals, before winning two bronze medals at Worlds a month later.
“In this time, I’ve been able to learn lessons from the more experienced riders, and I have competed with and against some of the best riders in the world.
“Recently I got to ride against Rio Olympic medallist Katy Marchant, which gave me a good example of how vigorous racing can be at the highest level. When I raced Katy, she treated me like any other international rider at an elite race; she gave it 100% and this mutual respect – even though I was a newbie to the team – meant a lot to me.
“I was also amazed by how she can take off the shoes and the helmet at the end of the day and turn straight back into a bubbly, warm, supportive team-mate.
“Now, like many athletes of my age, I’m preparing to watch my current team-mates – the riders I train day in, day out with – out in Tokyo, and want to take as much from it as I possibly can.
“Everything that Katy and the other Podium riders have been working toward for the past five years is almost upon us. They are getting ready to show the world the results of all the hard work, grit and determination they have put in, which is exactly the position I want to be in in the future.
“This will be the first Olympics where I fully understand the times, races and tactics which will be really exciting.
“I’m keen to see how the riders warm-up and prepare themselves before each race, and I will be watching the motions they go through, and both their mental and physical preparation.
“I also feel that the Games will be a great opportunity for me to add to my knowledge of the tactics involved in racing – particularly the match sprints – as there is no better way to learn than watching the very best in the world race against each other on the biggest stage.
“I’m keen to ensure that I carry on learning after the Games as well. Once Tokyo 2020 is over and riders and support staff start arrive back in Manchester, I will try to ask as many questions as I can about the experience of racing in that situation, how they handled the pressure, and how the cultural differences in Japan – something which I’m really curious about – shaped their Games experience.”