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‘If you want to keep sniping then give me a call’: British Cycling chief challenges critics after Tokyo success

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: ‘If you want to keep sniping, then give me a call’ – British Cycling chief challenges critics after Tokyo success – AFP. British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park challenged his critics to “”come and have a go”” if they thought they could do any better as his team ended the Tokyo Games on a high.

Jason Kenny’s gold medal in the keirin lifted the number of numberawardsdals won by Britain’s cyclists across all disciplines at these Games to 12. That equals the number won at London 2012 and Rio 2016 and is just two short of the high watermark set at Beijing 2008.

It also defied some somewhat gloomy predictions in the build-up to Tokyo 2020 that Britain’s cyclists would struggle to get anywhere near the success of the last three Games. The reasons for the pessimism were many and varied. British Cycling has had a traumatic few years since the departure of technical director Shane Sutton in 2016 amid sexism and bullying allegations.

An independent review of the organization at the time found a “”bullying culture”” and made several recommendations, which necessitated a root-and-branch cultural overhaul.

Park, who ran the RYA’s’ Olympicprogramprogramme, was brought in to oversee those e reform,s but his style has not been to everyone’s liking. Some refer to him dismissively as a “”sailor”” who knows nothing about cycling.

Cycling

Some high-profile departures under Park’s watch, including women’s endurance coach Paul Manning and men’s’ sprint coach Kevin Stewart, who left late last year with Tokyo insight.

Various coaches have also left to work with rival squads. Mehdi Kordi now coaches the mighty Dutch sprinters, who ended the 13-year reign of Britain’s men’s’ team sprint in Izu.

Dan Bigham, the former F1 aerodynamicist and rider, went to work with Denmark’s men’s’ pursuit team after being jettisoned by British Cycling. Bigham has been openly critical of British Cycling’s coaching philosophy and approach.

All in all, it was difficult to escape the impression that there was some knife-sharpening going on in the background coming into these Games. But five medals in the mountain bike and the BMX were a vindication of the decision to diversify the medal strategy and gave the team a cushion heading into the track cycling. And seven more medals in the velodrome ensured British Cycling met their UK Sport target of eight awards and then some.

Jason Kenny celebrates his keirin triumph – PAUL GROVER/THE TELEGRAPH
.It means a lot,”” Park said. “”We’ve’ had a few tough years at British Cycling, different people taking different views. I have always been very conscious of the legacy of the British cycling team.

“”The question was whether we could maintain top team status. For those listening three years ago, I was saying the dominance of the track would not be the same because of the movement in equipment. That’s proven to be the case.

“”The question then was whether we could still create the environment that was going to allow our very best athletes to come forward and perform under pressure. It’s’ a relief and pleasing that’s happened not just on the track but across other disciplines.

“”To be able to come here and equal the number of medals and gold medals from Rio – which was an incredible performance – to be able to leave is the only country in history that’s won a gold medal in every Olympic discipline, with Jason and Laura being the kings and queens of sport, let alone cycling, and to have a team of young riders coming through, bodes well for Paris [2024], for LA [2028]. “”It’s’ fantastic but it’s’ also, tribute to all the work done by the support staff and all those back home.””

Park said he did not know whether the “”sniping”” would stop in the wake of GB’s’ results in Japan. “”No idea, I doubt it,”” he said. But he insisted that the spirit in the camp was good, adding that he intended to make sure everyone enjoyed their final night.

“”I’ve’ personally always felt that in 2016, although I was looking on from the outside, that the riders never got the recognition they deserved. I’m’ pretty determined to make sure we do have that this time.

“”And frankly, there is a bit of… if you want to keep shouting, if you want to keep sniping, then feel free to give me a call. “”I’ll’ make sure there’s a bike available if you think you’re’ good enough. Just rock up and come and have a go. Because there’s not one of these people who would have beaten the riders who were on track here. Not one of them. Not even close. But if they think they can, then just give me a call.””

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