Scotland’s Jack Carlin is the latest rider to be part of our #TokyoThursdays feature. In this interview, Jack discusses his journey into the sport and his development from Bellahouston to the Olympics.
After watching Sir Chris Hoy’s gold medal victory in the Keirin in 2012, Jack, like many young riders joined his local club to get in to cycling.
“I started at 14, as part of the Go-Ride Glasgow Riderz club, which was mostly mountain biking at the time”, Carlin told Scottish Cycling.
“From there I started doing a bit more on the road, once I got a road bike for Christmas, which eventually translated into doing a bit of road racing, which then resulted in me doing some track stuff at the old Meadowbank Velodrome and at Bellahouston.”
Despite mountain biking and road being Jack’s first tastes of the sport, it was the warmth of the new facility in Glasgow’s East End provided the not-so pint sized track sprinter his specialisation, as he joked:
“Once the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome opened in 2012, I realised I hated going up climbs on the road and riding in the cold, so I started doing track leagues and I eventually ended up in the Scotland Development squad via that.”
Whilst the 24-year-old is now looking to build upon his silver at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, he owes a lot of his development to a number of coaches and volunteers.
“Edd [Shackley] was my first coach I suppose, he looked after everyone, he was there 10-12 every Saturday morning.”
The Paisley-born sprinter also highlighted how a number of other elite riders have come from the same crop of youths in Glasgow:
“I remember Anna [Shackley] actually, from when she was very young at the Riderz. There’s also Lewis Stewart who will be off the Paralympics, who’s a year younger than me as well. Luisa Steele as well, who’s also on the Performance Programme.”
“There’s real strength in depth in the quality of riders that have come out of the Riderz and that’s the result of hard work put in by Edd and others, such as the Johnstone Jets coach Martin Mulholland as well.
Carlin thinks that the support provided at the local level really helped propel the aforementioned group of riders to the higher echelons of the sport.
“The thing that helped me progress most was the WoSCA (West of Scotland Cycle Association), the track time, the kit and the coaching; all the riders I’ve mentioned came through that system.”
The competitive nature of various clubs seemed to help that group, as Carlin continued:
“Whilst we were all part of different clubs such as the Riderz or the Jets, the training and racing together as a larger group spurred us on more and helped us all push on as a result. There was a lot of envy from other areas of Scotland and I think that’s down to the 10 or so coaches and volunteers that put their time into helping kids progress”
Whilst as a youth and a junior Jack showed signs of real potential, it did sometimes take unconventional means to allow him to progress.
“Scottish Cycling and Scottish Institute for Sport were quite supportive of me as a junior and even snuck me on to sessions with the senior guys, when I probably shouldn’t have been there - I think it was because they saw some potential in me.”
The Renfrewshire rider thinks that this sort of support was the catalyst for what was to come next for him.
“I wasn’t a part of the British squad as a Junior, but once I turned 18, I was given the opportunity to move down to Manchester and since then, everything has progressed from there. The result of the Scottish Cycling support was that it prepared me mentally to focus on my development and not results, and that was useful before moving down to Manchester.”
The timing of his move onto the Great Britain Performance Programme couldn’t have been much better, as Jack explains.
“I think we were very fortunate as myself Ryan Owens and Joe Truman all moved onto the squad together. We all fitted in perfectly into one position each in the Team Sprint, and it just worked, so we could just focus on training. It also helped that the Rio Olympics had just happened, so the top guys were on a break, so we had the opportunity to step up and we’ve never looked back since.”
Since Jack’s accession to the Great Britain team in late-2016, he has brought home three silver medals at UCI World Track Championships, as well as two silver medals at European level. With a year of extra training under his belt, could it make all the difference for Carlin and co, as they look to top the podium on the biggest stage of all?
With just over two weeks to go, everyone at Scottish Cycling wishes Jack and his Team Sprint colleagues, Ryan Owen and Jason Kenny, the best of luck for their event in the Izu Velodrome on Tuesday 3rd August.