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Why not prepping for the Olympics feels a bit like the days when I avoided homework in school

In the first of a series of columns, track cyclist Mark Downey gives his thoughts on Tokyo 2020′s postponement.

Mark Downey is one of Ireland's top track cyclists.
Mark Downey is one of Ireland's top track cyclists.
Image: Guy Swarbrick

MARK DOWNEY, ALONG with team-mate Felix English, recently qualified Ireland a spot for the Olympics in track cycling. In the first of a series of columns Downey will writing for The42, below he gives his thoughts on the recent postponement of Tokyo 2020. 

After the last few weeks, it was obvious the Olympics’ postponement was going to happen. Canada and Australia pulled out, so it was just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

When you see the news in black and white, straight after, it is a bit disappointing. But when you look at the situation we’re all in at the minute, it’s definitely the best decision.

Can positives be taken from it? You look at it both ways in that you’re carrying a bit of momentum with the race fitness, particularly for us, with a crazy two years of qualifying. Obviously we just got in there by the skin of the teeth after having a bad first year of qualifying. Postponing it for a year gives us a chance to close the gap. We weren’t right on the top level, though we got a bit closer this year. The next 16 months gives us a chance to get that bit closer to the top tier. Obviously, our rivals could push on as well.

But it gives us more time to focus on our weaknesses. There’s not a lot you can change in a race season for us, because we do so much travelling. With World Cups, we did five out of six this year, so we were all over the world.

The postponement definitely gives me time to switch off for the next few weeks, and in the next 16 months, I can be a lot better.

We had a plan when the Olympics was going ahead as normal, but that all went up in smoke. I had a phone call with my coach last night. He was just saying do what you want the next two weeks. You can enjoy time with your family, run, jog or cycle, whatever, do a home fitness DVD. It’s just a free few weeks with everything up in the air. Just do what you feel and keep a bit of fitness.

It then gives you that hunger to come back with a new job to focus on and go forward with.

With the way things have ended up, it was a strange place for people to train on their own, so that was definitely a hindrance.

I’m based at home in Ireland at the moment. I was meant to return to France two weeks after the World Championships to do some road racing to get some general fitness again. They were looking for me to return. I told them I’d been advised to remain in Ireland. They were saying we need you to come because we’ve important races. Then, overnight, they rang me and said all races have been cancelled and you’re entitled to stay at home.

France and Spain are in a worse place than us. They can’t leave the house at all to go on their bikes — they have to do it all indoors.

For me, I can still go out training on the road. Okay, we race on a track, but 50% of our training is done on the road.

Obviously, we have time on the boards and time in the gym, but a good deal is spent on the road, so it’s not really a big deal having to stay in Ireland and keep preparing for the Olympics. It wouldn’t really have fazed me. The only thing is it’s probably harder to stay focused here when your mum’s buying you biscuit tins and all these things.

I’m probably at more of an advantage than say the hockey team, or the swimmers, who can’t get in the water. 

I’d only spent three weeks in Ireland in six months, so I was nearly a permanent resident in Majorca, where our team are based.

I’m talking to my team-mates Felix English and Fintan Ryan nearly every day, so we keep in good contact and make sure everyone is okay and on the straight and narrow still.

But it’s nice to get home and hit the off button. My family asked what I was ‘at’ today, and I was like: ‘I don’t know.’ You just don’t really know what you have to do or what you should be doing. It’s like that feeling from my schooldays when I should have been doing my homework, but I wasn’t.

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Mark Downey

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