Back when the GB team won 12 cycling medals at the Rio Olympics five years ago, Scotland’s Neah Evans was still a practicing vet and had yet to make her mark at the sport’s elite level. .
Now she aims to step onto the podium on her own after being named to an Olympic team for the first time at the age of 30.
Aberdeenshire-based Evans feels ready to make her mark in Tokyo despite admitting to being “a relative beginner” in the sport she played just seven years ago.
“A lot of my teammates, this is their second Olympics or their third Olympics, but it’s something they’ve dreamed of since they were 10,” she told BBC Scotland. “Whereas, because I got into it so late, it’s a bit of a whirlwind.
“It’s pretty cool that that actually happened. When I first started riding, it was just, ‘it’s a lot of fun, let’s see how far I can go as a cyclist.’ Rio, it was when my teammates won a gold medal.
“I did the program but I was working as a vet until 2017 and when I had my trial run at British Cycling I had never done a team pursuit.”
Evans made up for lost time, racking up four gold medals at the European Championships, one silver at the world championships and one silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games.
Now she is envisioning similar success with the GB team in a sport she only played on her father’s suggestion after injuring herself in a hill climb.
“It is a huge sum,” she said. “It’s one of those tricky things because British Cycling has such a big reputation for coming home with medals so when you’re on the team it’s not about participation – it it’s really about coming back with a medal.
“So to be selected is huge, but obviously that also comes with a lot of pressure.”
Evans hopes she can be an inspiration to those who think, “I’ll never be good because I’m older.”
“Age is just a number,” she said. “For cycling it’s a lot of time in sport and if you want it and are ready to work your age shouldn’t be holding you back.
“A lot of people think that with high performance sport you have to start very young. If you’re 15 or 16 and haven’t found your sport, well that’s it, you’re too late. – and I was really lucky and lucky to have had a lot of help and support along the way. ”
“I would like my mother to have the support I received”
Evans’ mother, Ros, competed in cross-country skiing at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games. But the cyclist expects her own Olympic experience to be “vastly different” – and not just because of the contrasting nature of the sports involved.
“Obviously the summer and winter Olympics, but all of her preparation, all of the process, she was really a self-sufficient athlete,” she explained.
“She was based in Norway, but she worked in a ski resort, so she did some household chores in the morning and then she would go out and train, but she was not supported like I am.
“Sometimes I feel a little sorry for her because you think, ‘You were clearly a brilliant athlete, but you didn’t have a fraction of the chances and the support I got from British Cycling’ and think: “I wonder how much more you could have accomplished if you had had more support.”
That support could be on the verge of creating an Olympic medalist from someone who didn’t realize cycling was “really fun” after starting it “just to get rid of my dad”.