Retiring Olympic champion Skinner ready for a post-cycling challenge

Twenty-six may seem young to be retiring but Olympic champion Callum Skinner is excited about what the future holds after leaving elite professional cycling behind.

Skinner was part of the Team GB trio – alongside Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny – that set an Olympic record in the final of the team sprint at Rio 2016 to snatch gold ahead of New Zealand.

The Scot also won silver in the individual sprint, where he was beaten by teammate Kenny in an all-British final.

His last competitive race came in last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where he claimed a gutsy bronze in the 1km time trial.

Skinner has had health problems since those Games and decided now is the time to hang up his clip-in pedals – with his next role set to be helping improve rights and conditions for athletes, while still having a focus on performance.

And it’s a challenge that the 26-year-old cannot wait to attack with the same commitment that he always gave professional cycling.

“Cycling has been very good to me, I’ve made lifelong friends and realised my dream for which I am eternally privileged,” said Skinner in a statement on his website.

“I appreciate that 26 might seem to many quite young to be transitioning away from the track, but I have never considered myself just an athlete; I consider myself far more than that.

“Cycling is my first love and it was the ideal place with the perfect opportunities to focus my drive to achieve great things.

“Now, on 7/3/19, I’m looking for a new challenge, my next Olympics. I want to build on the skills and perspective I’ve learnt and gained as a competitor over the last few years and go on to greater things.

“As some of you will know, I’m particularly passionate about giving back to sport, using my profile for good, whether that’s in supporting the long overdue reform of sports governance, LGBT rights and encouraging people to get on their bikes.

“My focus and effort now lies in working in partnership with British Cycling to continue to make the athlete experience more human whilst still maintaining that performance mindset. These two essential aspects are not mutually exclusive of each other.”

Skinner was inspired to take up cycling in 2004 after watching countryman Chris Hoy at the Olympic Games in Athens.

By 2008 he was national youth champion and represented Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games before winning a first major medal at the 2012 European Championships – a bronze in the team sprint.

He became European champion in the 1km time trial in 2014 but Rio 2016 was undoubtedly his greatest success, as he became a double Olympic medallist and an Olympic champion.

Skinner claims he is on the road to recovery from the health issues of the past year and says there was no better way to bow out of cycling than with his bronze at the Commonwealth Games last year.

“My last competition and podium place was at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in 2018; it was great to finish on a high,” added Skinner.

“Since that time, I have been on an extended break due to my health deteriorating. This has proved to be a very challenging time.

“Through seeking help outside the programme, and by the unswerving support of my friends, family and agent, I have made incredible progress and I’m pleased to say have almost fully recovered.”

Sportsbeat 2019