Great Britain’s beleaguered sprint cycling squad have a renewed hunger to return to the level of their former glories as they prepare for this week’s European Games in Minsk.
A disappointing World Championships in Poland this year, when the all-conquering GB squad were forced to settle for a solitary gold medal – and none in the sprints – highlighted the extent of their demise.
For the likes of Jack Carlin and Jason Kenny, failure in Poland instills the otherwise lightly-regarded event in Minsk with extra importance in terms of the route to Tokyo 2020 – and one Carlin knows they must grasp.
Carlin told Press Association Sport: “The worlds didn’t go to plan for us and they were a major disappointment.
“But we came back and reassessed and made some changes. I think everyone has come out of the process with a positive mindset and we are hungrier now to build towards the next Worlds and the Olympics next year.”
Carlin and six-times Olympic champion Kenny – something of an anomaly in an otherwise relatively inexperienced squad – will team up for the team sprint on Thursday, before going head to head in the individual event later in the week.
Carlin, who was preferred over Kenny for the individual sprint place at the World Championship, admitted: “The expectation is rightly there because of how much GB has achieved in the past.
“We know as a team that by the time Tokyo comes around we can pull something out of the bag and turn up to the Olympics in the same way we have in the past. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe that.”
Seven British boxers have guaranteed medals in Minsk after six successfully negotiating their quarter-finals on Wednesday, to join the already-qualified Cheavon Clarke in the last four.
Galal Yafai, Peter McGrail, Pat and Luke McCormack, Lauren Price and Ben Whittaker all came through their respective bouts, leaving Great Britain with an impressive tally in an event which also doubles as the European Championship.
Yafai is intent on reaching the final and making Saturday a special night for his family, as older brother Kal puts his WBA super-flyweight title on the line against Norbelto Jimenez in Providence, Rhode Island.
Yafai said: “I’m obviously very close to both of my brothers and I speak to them pretty regularly. It would be amazing if I could get the gold medal on the same night that Kal gets another win in the States.”
McGrail and Pat McCormack were two of the most impressive of the British winners, with McGrail easing past Krenar Zeneli of Albania before McCormack completely outclassed his welterweight opponent Hugo Micallef of Monaco.
McCormack’s Birtley club-mate Calum French was the only British boxer to lose on Wednesday as he dropped a close split decision to Karen Tonakanyan of Armenia.