The Rio Olympic Games are drawing closer, and for Joanna Rowsell Shand her daily focus is on making herself stronger, faster, and more in tune with her team mates – all in aid of a four kilometre ride in the velodrome this August.
The Team Pursuit rider is deep in preparation for what will be her second Olympics. This year, however, GB’s Team Pursuit squad isn’t quite as dominant as it was back in 2012, when they went into the Velodrome as World Champions, World Record Holders, and home favourites.
We caught up with the 27-year-old to find out how she’s managing the expectations and pressures of training in the run up to Rio.
“We want to win. We don’t want to go there to get a Silver or a Bronze or a fourth place.”
One thing’s for sure – she’s going for Gold. Speaking about motivations within the squad, she said: “The pressure is more from ourselves, rather than anyone else. We want to win. We don’t want to go there to get a Silver or a Bronze or a fourth place. We’re Olympic champions from London, we want to get that Olympic Gold again.”
The pressure then, is self-inflicted. Discussing recent headlines about sexism and a culture of fear withing British Cycling, Rowsell Shand is quick to defend her own treatment, saying: “I’ve very lucky to be a funded rider, I’m very lucky to be part of a squad where I would say we’re treated very equally to the men’s team pursuit squad. We’ve got so many world class staff working specifically for our medal. I haven’t got any complaints [of sexism].”
Though the Great British Team aren’t nearly as dominant as they were, she thinks they’re still in a good place – explaining: “Back in 2012, we went in as World Champions and World Record holders. But that year at the World Champs we’d qualified two tenths quicker than Australia. It was really tight, at the World Cup in London in February 2012 we’d won by eight tenths of a second. We’d won by really small margins, and people seem to forget about that. Obviously by London at the Olympics we’d won by a big margin, but people forget about all the narrow victories along the way.”
She adds: “I think going into London we never felt complacent, we never felt head and shoulders above the rest of the world, we almost felt like everyone was chasing us really closely. This year it’s different in that we’re the chasers – but I’d still say we’re right in the mix.”