Olympic cycling champion Elinor Barker 'at peace' with Tokyo postponement
Olympic team pursuit champion Elinor Barker has admitted the postponement of the Tokyo Games until 2021 was 'tough to take', but insists she is now feeling 'positive' about the delay.
The 25 year-old, who was a part of the British quartet that won gold in Rio four years ago, had the perfect form coming into 2020 to make a real impact on the Olympics this summer.
And while Barker now feels good about the one-year pushback, she concedes it was initially a difficult thing to come to terms with.
Speaking exclusively to NewsChain, she said: “I’m feeling quite positive about it now and feeling at peace about it. I’m so settled on the idea of a 2021 Olympics now that the idea of having it this summer feels kind of rushed. I can’t even imagine having it in a few months anymore.
“But obviously it was a different story a couple of weeks ago when we first heard the announcement. I think the announcement didn’t really hit me as hard as I thought it might do because of all the whispers and rumours that were going around the week before.
“I probably had my hardest days in the week before when it looked like it was going to become a reality. That was pretty tough to take."
For many sports stars who were hoping to do big things at the Olympics this summer, the postponement has meant they have had to taper down their training in order to ensure they do not burn out.
NewsChain spoke to former world road race champion and Olympic hopeful Lizzie Deignan earlier this month and she is of the belief that 'there's no point being 100 per cent focused on being as lean or as focused as possible at the moment'.
Contrastingly though, Barker feels if anything she has upped her training intensity since the Tokyo delay was announced.
“I have wondered about that (burnout), but I can imagine, in my case anyway, more of a mental burnout from having nothing to do during this time and having nothing to focus on," she added.
“It’s given me some energy, even if that’s short term energy. If that means that I need to have a week off in six months time when I can actually book a holiday and enjoy that time off then that’s the way I’m going to try and run things.
“I definitely think it’s changed the focus of it. But in some ways I think I’m training harder than I would be if the Olympics was going ahead because there’s no worries about selection or anything. So there’s no key sessions in the week that I know that I really need to hit.
“When you’re in a team event you’re trying to train but you’re also trying to get selected, you’re always thinking about the next few days. Whereas at the moment it’s kind of an opportunity to hit every session as hard as I can. It’s been a nice period to mentally relax and physically go a bit harder."
The Welsh cyclist's current regime while in lockdown involves a ride of between two to four hours, sometimes followed by either a turbo or gym session in the afternoon.
Barker was the only British rider to win a gold medal at the World Track Championships in Berlin two months ago, taking victory in the points race.
And so while the National Cycling Centre in Manchester remains effectively shut due to the Government's strict measures, Barker is doing her utmost to maintain the form she had at the worlds, but in a way that best suits how she feels.
She said: “One person is allowed in (to the velodrome) every couple of weeks to get nutritional supplies and stuff like that. But other than that it’s a complete lockdown.
“I’m not really a morning person so I do train better in the afternoon. So now I’ve got the freedom to actually do that I’m actually getting quite a good training block in because I can actually train at the point of the day where my body feels the best."
Now, as the only reigning world champion in the GB cycling squad, Barker will be looked at as one of the hopes for success in Tokyo in 2021.
However, despite being seen to the wider public as someone who could bring a medal home from Japan, she insists she does not feel like one of the big names in the team.
“I don’t think I really see myself as that (one of the big stars)," she said.
"When I came into the sport I was 18 and suddenly fresh onto a team with a load of celebrities so you kind of get used to the idea that the pressure is spread around a lot of high profile people.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really got out of the mindset of being the young underdog that’s still somehow sneaking some wins. I’ve never really felt like the pressure has landed on me."
For the GB endurance squad the team pursuit is always a major goal for all the individuals involved in the Olympic preparation.
But this time around there is also another huge race which riders will be competing for places in - the madison.
It is the first time the event, which is ridden in pairs, has ever been included in the women's list of races for an Olympic Games, meaning all the riders from the GB set-up want to be selected.
"I’d really like to be selected for the madison," said Barker.
“It’s huge, it feels historical. It’s come back into the Olympics for the men, but it’s the first time in the Olympics for the women, so everybody wants to do it."