Seventeen year old Kevin Stewart is a relative newcomer to cycling. He had been a swimmer, then turned triathlete but, enjoying the cycling part more than the other two disciplines he made the switch to track just over two years ago.
Fortunately the local Discovery Junior Cycling Club had just been created to encourage youngsters to get involved in track cycling. Scottish Cycling recognised his talent and selected him for its Junior Talent Programme. At the same time he was selected for the Tayside & Fife Institute of Sport where he has benefitted from a range of support services. Strength and conditioning training has been a key focus with the aim being to maximise strength and explosive power in his legs through basic squatting exercises, and to promote general upper body and core strength and stability to allow him to transfer this strength and power effectively whilst on the bike.
Of course the test that really counts is on two wheels in the velodrome. At last summer’s British Junior Championships he won the silver medal in the keirin, the event Chris Hoy has dominated in the last two years, and produced another silver medal in team sprint at the Senior Nationals.
By being selected for the Olympic Development Programme (ODP) this year he is following a similar path to Hoy and would love to follow in his footsteps, but knows there is a long hard road ahead.
“I was overjoyed to be selected for the ODP because it’s the first stepping stone up the ranks,” said Kevin, who now makes a regular commute to the programme’s base in Manchester.
“There’s a lot more specific training involved, they give you the latest equipment and take you abroad for racing.”
Still a junior Kevin has his clear goals for the 2009 season. He is just back from last week’s U23 Junior European Championships in Minsk where he got his first taste of serious international action for GB. He finished 5th in the individual sprint and after winning his heat he sadly crashed out in the semi-final of the Kieran, but recovered to contest the minor final and took 11th place overall. Along with fellow Scot Callum Skinner and Lewis Olivia they finished 7th in the Team Sprint. Whilst a little disappointed with his performance, he understands that at this stage of his development it is all about getting experience and he now knows what to expect when he goes to the Junior World Championships in Moscow next month.
Kevin is also hoping he might post a qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi next year, but his sights are firmly set on being part of the home Scottish team when the Games come to Glasgow in 2014.
“I am really excited about the prospect of competing for Scotland at a home Games. The next five years will hopefully see me establish myself as a senior athlete and put me in the mix when the Games come to Glasgow. Having such an excellent new facility on the doorstep will be amazing and help my training regime enormously, as well as giving Scottish riders a distinct competitive advantage riding on their home track in front of a passionate Scottish crowd.”
Whilst Kevin is at the start of his senior cycling journey, for Uddingston man James McCallum the challenge is to do it all over again for 2010 and perhaps again in 2014.
A bronze medallist in the 20km scratch race in Melbourne 2006, James had moved into a co-ordination role with Scottish Cycling hoping to help others to follow in his footsteps. But now the lure of the action on both the track and the road in Delhi 2010 is too much for him to ignore and he has decided to get back on his bike.
For 30 year old James the benefits of a state of the art track in Glasgow have possibly come too late, but he is under no illusion about what it will do to help up and coming youngsters in the future.
Joining the Games partners on the site of the new velodrome to celebrate five years to go until the start of the Games James said: “Scotland has strong cycling credentials and with a success story like Chris Hoy, the interest in cycling has never been greater. An indoor velodrome will give talented youngsters a wonderful boost and aid their development at an earlier stage. It will also benefit cyclists like myself who just missed out on selection for GB squads yet still had the potential to win medals for Scotland.”
There is no doubt that the next five years will be an exciting time for Scotland’s athletes, determined to make the most of the opportunities that a home Games brings.