Past track cycling World Cup gold medallists Mark Downey and Felix English are among four riders who were announced on Thursday as heading to the Tokyo Olympics in July, with the duo joining Shannon McCurley and Emily Kay on the Team Ireland squad.
Ireland had previously qualified places in the men’s and women’s Madison events, and those pairings have now been confirmed as filling those slots in Tokyo.
Downey and English have strong past success on the track. The duo together won Madison gold in the Los Angeles World Cup in 2017. They have also shone in individual events: English was the gold medallist in the scratch race at the Glasgow round of the 2019 track World Cup, while Downey won World Cup points races events in Apeldoorn in 2016 and Cali in 2017.
He was also bronze medallist in the points race in the 2019 track world championships and the 2017 European championships.
“It’s something I dreamt about as a kid, and I have been working towards this for my whole lifetime, really,” said Downey of Olympic participation. “[After] the rollercoaster of the last 12 months, it’s nice to finally get the official writing, and I’m really looking forward to presenting the best version of myself in the national colours come August, on the biggest stage in the world!”
McCurley became Ireland’s first female track cycling Olympian in 2016, riding in the Keirin sprint event. She has since switched to the endurance wing of the sport and was a European championships silver medallist in 2019. She will compete alongside Kay in the women’s Madison, with the latter also set to ride the multi-discipline Omnium. She has previous success in this event, having taken bronze in the Milton, Canada round in January 2020.
Either Downey or English will compete in the men's Omnium in Tokyo, with a final decision to be made at a later point. Fintan Ryan and Lydia Gurley will travel to Japan as reserves for the Madison races. The squad will be coached by 2012 Olympian Martyn Irvine, who won the scratch race at the 2013 world track championships.
“The last year has been really challenging for everyone, and the grit and resilience that the whole squad has shown has resulted in this selection,” said Irvine. “[It is a] team that is not just going to Tokyo to participate, but to compete for top results. It is a squad that has real potential, and tough decisions had to be made during selection, but I can honestly say that the reason we are at this point, fielding such a strong team, is because of each of those athletes who drove the standard on.
“Leading into the Games now, we are focusing on trusting the process, making sure the team is 100 per cent prepared, and ready for some top-class racing.”
The track cycling events at the Olympic Games will run from August 5th to 8th.