Rising Star Interview John Paul

Rising Star Interview John Paul

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Still an Under 16 rider, John Paul (left) finished second in the British Junior Men's Sprint Championship to Kian Emadi (1st) and fellow Scot, Kevin Stewart (3rd).

Built like the proverbial sprinter, John is a young rider who can race his Dolan bike very fast indeed and the 16 year old set a time for the flying 200 metres (11.08) that is believed to be the fastest for a rider of his age – in the world. At the Championship week, as well as winning two Gold medals in the Under 16 Male sprint events, John was second in the Junior men’s Sprint as well and listening to him closely afterwards, I could hear a Scottish accent from the Wantage (Oxfordshire) based rider.

John is from the North of Scotland near John O’Groats and so is yet another rider from North of the border who may well be representing that country at future Commonwealth Games as well as Olympiads. His coach, Lee Povey of Fast Track Coaching, believes he’ll be a Gold medallist in 2016 and who’s to say he won’t after the performances at the Youth and Junior Championships. He won the 500 metre TT by almost a second and in the Under 16 Men’s sprint, was fastest by fourth tenths in the flying 200 metres qualifying ride.

He is however only 16, and it may well be far too early to say whether he’ll continue progressing and become as big a senior star as he is in the Youth ranks. But the signs are certainly very good indeed and with competition for places in the Podium Programme  Sprint squad raging on within Team GB, the strength in-depth for GB looks likely to continue with young male sprinters like John Paul and others like Matt Rotherham waiting in the wings.
John Paul started out in athletics as a sprinter but gave that up when he was 12 or 13. Then, in 2004, John was watching the Athens Olympics and Chris Hoy’s ride in the kilometre inspired him to give cycling a go. “It looked like the coolest thing ever” John explained “so I went along to the Palmer Park track in Reading, which is my local track, and had a go”.

“I went along on Saturday mornings and then gradually found that the shorter efforts suited me. Last year I went to Good Friday and started working with Lee Povey and he’s helped me go a long way in sprinting.”

John is also mentored by another great Scottish sprinter (World Silver medallist, Sprint, 2006), Craig MacLean who used to race with John Paul’s dad. In an interview on the informative website,  www.inthewinningzone.com he says “"I'm quite lucky in that I have Craig Maclean as a mentor, which is absolutely fantastic because he talks to me and guides me through some of my training and things. It's great because I can ask him things about training and he just helps me out.”

Prior to the Youth and Junior Track Nationals at Newport, John explained that Masters Sprint champion and former Talent Team coach now working for Welsh Cycling, Geoff Cooke, had also  helped him to get ready for the big week of races that lay ahead of him.

“Every Thursday night session down here at Newport, I was able to ride the track doing specific things and that really helped my preparation. I was been able to dial in to doing things like the flying 200 metre effort and really specific stuff like that so I was ready for the championships.”

“I also started doing gym work at the beginning of last winter and that has also really helped me move forward in leaps in bounds. I have felt really strong in the gym this year and that has helped me with find the extra power I need on the track.”

As a rider who was four tenths faster than his nearest rival in the Youth Sprint championships, tactics in the sprint matches took on a lesser role than they did in the Junior Sprint event where many of his rivals were older, faster and on bigger gears. Asked how he learns to play an opponent on the track with so little sprint racing available, John explained “when I played football and Rugby, I didn’t read the game very well and relied on my fitness”

Watch sprinting and you can see the expereinced riders like here at Newport, John (leading)  is measuring his finishing effort well to win but not give it everything so he saves a bit for the next ride.

“In cycling though I got a lot of sprint DVD’s from my then Talent Team coach Stuart McDonald (now working for Irish Cycling) of world championships and nationals etc and I watched them all. Then, gradually over time, I got a feel for why riders do certain things and how it all works.”

With John being in his final year of the Under 16 category, the next few years will be very important indeed as he aims to earn a place on the Olympic Development Programme and after that, the Academy programme. If ever there was an inspiration to help motivate him through those challenging years it was the performance of Chris Hoy in Beijing, one that John says really has inspired him.

Before he can even think about challenging the Worlds best for Olympic glory however, there are stepping stones and one of those for John is to win a rainbow jersey at a World Championship. John, like a lot of Juniors in Britain, is hoping to do enough to earn a place in the GB team for next year’s World Junior Track Championships in Italy so he can take a shot at beating the World’s best juniors.

In the meantime, it’s back home to track leagues and training camps and I do expect we’ll hear much more of this young rider in the coming months and years.

One person who is sure we will is Geoff Cooke, a World Masters Sprint champion and former Commonwealth Games champion on the Tandem. The coach from Manchester now working for the Welsh to help young riders into cycling, is full of praise for the young John Paul.

“I started working with John at the DHL Sprint School a few years ago and even then he shone out and last year he had a really good year. Then, this year I have worked even more with him when he’s come down here to Newport on a Thursday night and before that when we had training camps when I worked for British Cycling. He’s one of these lads I have never seen have a bad day.”

John has a quiet word with personal coach Lee Povey of Fast Track Coaching before a sprint match at Newport during the Youth and Junior Track Championships.

“He is spectacular. He is also professional in the way he does things and as a bike rider, he’s very special. To do 11 dead is great and I think on a special day, he’ll clip under 11 seconds, even on an 88 inch gear. Put his gear up a few inches and you’ll really see him go!”

Asked to put into perspective what an 11.0 means for a 16 year old on a ‘normal’ board track like Newport, Geoff replied “it is breath taking for me. When I used to be working with the big guys like Chris Hoy and Jason Queally, sometimes you’d hit the watch (to stop it) and I’d think that there must be something wrong with what I’m seeing and I’d  look round for confirmation for what is shown on the watch like a 10.2 in a training session with high pressures on.”

“John Paul is the same. You hit the watch and think, I don’t think that is right and again, you’re looking for confirmation because you can hardly believe what the watch is telling you.”

“I used to look for a young sprinter who was capable of doing a 12.6 because I’d know they were okay and then we’d work on getting them under 12 and that was the next stepping stone but John  did that last year at 15. After that, I looked for progression and he has progressed further. I was watching him do 11.7’s and then 11.5’s and then he came up to me and said I’ve done 11.4.”

“I said to him, ‘I want to see it to believe it’ and he did it for me in a training camp on training wheels!”

“I’d given him a target of an 11.2 this year and he’s beating that already. Progression is what you are looking for with athletes because once they get onto the ODP (Olympic Development Programme) unless they progress at a steady rate, there’s the danger they’ll be discarded and John is progressing well right now.”

Sprinting can be a tough sport and here John Paul shows just how tough he is as he crashes at speed during the final of the Junior Sprint Championship and is able to get up afterwards and continue to press Kian Emadi for the British title. See the full story here

It isn’t just on the track that John Paul has shown his strength but also in the gym where he’s impressive to as Geoff explains. “He’s able to squat with a 145kg which is cooking with gas for a kid of his age”. And like John’s personal coach Lee Povey, Geoff says he predicts John Paul will make the 2016 Olympics if he continues to progress the way he is doing right now. “We have the best coaches in the World here in Britain and if they can take him on to wherever that leads, that will be wonderful. I’ll certainly be one person sitting back in admiration!” Geoff said finally.

You, me and the rest of the nation Geoff and good luck to John Paul in fulfilling his goals in cycling as well as life itself.