For young athletes with an eye on Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028, this summer has been a valuable learning experience.
Despite being a Games like no other, Tokyo 2020 has given athletes with their own Olympic and Paralympic dreams the chance to study how Britain and the world’s finest athletes prepare, perform and react in the glare of the Games spotlight.
We’ve asked a number of our younger members what lessons they have learnt from Tokyo, that they are intent on putting into practice as the Paris Games begin to come into view over the next few years. Track cyclist Emma Finucane gave us an insight into what she hoped to learn pre-Games, and here, she tells of her experience of watching her team-mates compete.
“The first event I watched was the BMX racing, as a good friend of mine, Beth Shriever, was competing. It was her first Olympic Games so I stayed up until 4am to watch her compete!
“I had spoken to Beth the night before the finals and she was really excited after her incredible qualifying performance. The following day, she went on to win the whole event, making BMX history! I gained so much motivation and determination after her races and it is so inspiring to see how hard she trains day in, day out in the gym and on the track here in Manchester.
“When she returned, I asked Beth about her experience and how it was racing without a crowd as this was something I was very curious about. She told me that it was like a training session and that the atmosphere was weird and quiet.
“Following on from the BMX, the track cycling began. The first event in the sprint side of the competition was the male team sprint, and it was so special watching the people I have trained beside race in the Olympic Games.
“Great Britain reached the final, which I watched with my team-mates before we did our gym session; the emotions were so high as we wanted them to win so badly. They gave such an amazing performance and set incredible times; I found it inspiring how they managed to leave everything possible out on the track.
“We then watched Katy Marchant in the keirin. She looked really on form and was racing well, but unfortunately crashed – as she and her coach Jan van Eijden said when they returned: ‘that’s bike racing’. Luckily, Katy came away from the crash not too badly hurt and continued on with the Games in the sprint event.
“She got a personal best in the flying 200 and raced really well in the match sprints. I paid particular attention to the tactics and strategies she employed against different riders. Watching her race really taught me a lot!
“On the same day as Katy’s keirin, Jack Carlin and Jason Kenny rode the sprint qualifying exceptionally. It was really exciting having so many races to watch on the same day, and understanding them was even better.
“I’ve learned that you needed to have self-motivation and determination to perform at the highest level, particularly in these COVID-affected times. The lack of crowd at Tokyo was uncomfortable for most and harrowing for some.
“I’ve also learnt that anything can happen; listening to Laura Kenny say that Jason ‘just wanted to go home’ after the sprint, then watching him take seconds out of everyone in the keirin final was incredible to witness and a real testament to how good he is at reading a bike race.
“I found it useful that I understood all the races, times and tactics, and I even knew a bit about how the riders were doing in holding camp which was pretty cool!
“During Tokyo I observed many things about the riders and how they dealt with racing again. It was truly inspiring to see so many of our team win together and sometimes lose together. One of the highlights I distinctly remember was watching Jack Carlin and Kye Whyte supporting their team-mates (Jason and Beth) when they were racing. It was such a great sight, as they have been working so hard together to achieve a goal, and it really showed the level of team spirit and togetherness among the riders.
“Watching Tokyo has reinforced my ambition to become an Olympian. If I put my mind to it and train hard, hopefully one day my dream will come true!”