Interview: Jason Queally still on the pace at 40 plus

Exclusive -  VeloUK talks to Sydney 2000 Olympic Champion Jason Queally (legend!) about his challenge for London 2012

Other Pre European Championship Interviews: Ed Clancy | Joanna Rowsell | GB for Europeans |

On Friday of this week, Jason Queally will again be back racing again in a major competition as a sprinter. For an athlete of 41 to come back at this level is an achievement in itself but even more so when you look at the last four years and the different challenges that Jason has undertaken to try and be part of the London 2012 Olympic experience.

European Championships 2010 — Jason Queally riding the Team Pursuit… 2011, he’s riding the Team Sprint!

It’s an indication of just how hungry Jason is to be part of the 2012 Olympics and while he has a mountain to climb, it’s the same mountain for all the GB athletes wanting to secure a place in London. Jason is quite simply a legend in British sport. Okay, I use the word perhaps a little too much but then may it should be ‘icon’, the word that Jason uses to describe his teammate Sir Chris Hoy.

The Great Britain Cycling Team did have Olympic success prior to lottery funding but not a lot! Chris Boardman is one athlete who managed it but after Peter Keen led GB into the lottery funded age, where Jason was the first Brit in all sports to win Olympic Gold for GB at the Sydney Games.

He promptly became a household name after having his picture splashed across the front pages of newspapers round the country. And, there were other medals for cycling in Sydney, Team Pursuit and Team Sprint (Bronze and Silver respectively), but Jason was the first Gold medallist and that started a revolution in GB that is still on-going today.

Jason though has not had a taste of Olympic competition since Athens in 2004 where he admits he was in the form of his life and it was a lost opportunity for him. He did have a go at making the Beijing team but was unable to break into it when Jason Kenny came along and Jason Queally found himself competing against his sparing partner, Sir Chris Hoy for that man three place.

Three star names from the world of sprinting, Jason Queally, Theo Bos and Chris Hoy, Los Angeles 2005 and the post Kilo medal haul…

Post Beijing, Jason started to work with the Paralympic squad with an eye on competing in London on the front of a tandem. Jason though hungered for able bodied competition and a pilot programme with the Endurance squad followed with the aim of riding the Team Pursuit. Jason however didn’t feel he was making quick enough progress and was ready to hang up his wheels when the offer of a lifetime came in, the Team Sprint squad wanted to try him out for man two or three, the latter position Sir Chris Hoy was in at Beijing.

The change came about because one of the Gold medal winning team, Jamie Staff, retired and took up a job back ‘home’ in the USA with their national team. GB then needed a man one and they have not left a stone unturned in trying to find that rider. Young riders with potential have been brought into the team and Jason Kenny was moved from man two to man one.

Olympic Silver medallist (Keirin) Ross Edgar too is training up for that spot at Man One. But that means a new man two or man three was needed. Sir Chris had already ridden in Man two in various competitions including the Sydney Games so the push for a man three (or two) was on. That ‘testing’ for all positions in the team is still on going and for Jason Queally and Matt Crampton, Appeldorn is where they can make a stake for a place in the team.

Jason Queally in man 2 as Jason Kenny leads the team out of the gate while Sir Chris Hoy is in man 3 position.

After all the changes in his chosen discipline during the last three years, I asked Jason has it been ‘easy’ to come back to where he started his career 15 or so years ago, and the Team Sprint. “It has actually” he replied. “If it was any other Olympics, I would not have done it. When I felt I had not progressed enough in the Team Pursuit in the World Cup in Melbourne, I felt at the end of the season I was going to hang up the cycling shoes.”

“I was still pursing the goal though when I got asked by senior management after the Track Worlds (March 2011) whether I’d be interested in coming back and having a go at the Team Sprint. I jumped at the chance and everybody has been so supportive and let me do what I need to do. I also realise though that I have had to do certain things within the team because it’s a team event.”

“The Europeans has been part of my long term plan, of being my first event” Jason went on to say. “The team have been keeping tabs on me to make sure I could contribute to the team effort and I did ask if there was any chance I could ride the Nationals and that went okay.”

“I managed to get on the wheel there and do a time and all the rest of it and that was enough for them to give me a chance here at the Europeans.”

Jason though had not been a happy bunny after his ride at the Nationals and I remember well hearing from GB’s press officer Abby Burton that he wasn’t ready to talk about it post race which was a shame because in fact, his ride to those in the press and in the stands had indeed been very impressive. Jason was though happy to talk about it when we spoke yesterday (Wednesday).

“On the first ride, Chris went man two and did a 13.0 and Matt (Crampton) I think did around a 13.5 last lap which is really good and in the second round, Chris did a 12.8, so significantly quicker than the first ride, and although I went a tad quicker than Matt on the last lap, I got a lot more speed from Chris so I expected my time to be quite a bit quicker so that was why I was quite disappointed.”

“Overall it was a respectable time of 44.0 which is not bad and the conditions were pretty good. I now have to move forward from that.”

Jason in Man 3 spot this time, cheered on by Chris Hoy

That disappointment he felt is a measure of just how much Jason wants that spot in the team. He knows he has the young guys like David Daniel and Matt Crampton snapping at his heels and also knows that the pressure for places is as tough as it ever was.

Back in the day, it was Jason Queally, Jamie Staff, Chris Hoy, Ross  Edgar and Craig MacLean all vying for places but now you can add David Daniell, Matt Crampton and Jason Kenny to that mix and probably a few more of the academy riders!

But, the 41 year old is still going, still keeping his rivals for a place in the Team Sprint honest and to be fair to him, still in with a chance of going to London 2012. How does someone who was hurt so bad on Meadowbank stadium in 1996 by a chunk of wood from the track, keep going into his 40s?

“I think it’s a mental thing” he says. “Jamie (Staff) had to do a lot of gym for his discipline where as I early in my career hurt my back in the gym, so I stepped away from gym work. I think by avoiding that, it’s enabled me to prolong my career. But mentally, if you’re still motivated, body willing, you can do it.”

“Ever since I was made aware of my role in the Team Sprint, I have known what the goals are so I knew from the off that the Europeans was an important event I needed to be going well for. I’ve been training for this since the Track Worlds really.”

2011 Nationals and Jason (right) is part of the winning line up with Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny.

“I had not done any sprinting since 2008 and while some of the stuff we had done in Team Pursuit training was pretty quick, I hadn’t done anything sprint wise for a long time. I was semi confident my sprint ability was still there because of the numbers I had seen in the Team Pursuit but until I actually started doing the training, I didn’t know for sure.”

Jason, as he showed in Sydney, is a rider for the big occasion. Hugely experienced, very knowledgeable and honest with himself as an athlete. He’s been in Appeldorn since Sunday and in the time between then and the race on Friday, he will only do one actual Team Sprint effort. The rest of the time will be standing start efforts.

“The Team Sprint is about the start and we want to be fairly confident with the start process. As long as you all get on, that’s the main thing and the session went well today. I am glad I did the nationals to get one under my belt though!”

Fingers crossed for Jason he continues to progress and on Friday, shows that he has what it takes to continue to battle for an Olympic spot. I remember well the huge disappointment he felt after the Athens Olympics and that Olympic torch is certainly still burning brightly inside this talented athlete. Come Friday, when the gas is lit as the starting beeps count down to zero, he, like the rest of us, will see just where he’s at in the battle to be part of London 2012. Good luck Jason and the rest of the team!

Always one for a bit of humour, which got him intro trouble way back when, Jason hams it up at the Euros last year when part of the Team Pursuit squad.

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