JACK CARLIN is enjoying a short break from cycling. Perhaps enjoying it too much.
It is a murky Monday morning on the banks of the Clyde near Erskine and the newly-crowned double Olympic medallist is helping Renfrewshire Council promote their You Decide initiative that allows residents to choose how to spend £1.2 million on nice things like parks and cycle tracks.
The 24 year-old admits it is a rare recent engagement where he doesn’t have a pint in his hand. Having returned from Tokyo with a silver and bronze medal, hailed by luminaries such as Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy as cycling’s next big thing, everyone is eager to say hello during a rare break home. And the Paisley man is happy to see them, too.
“It’s just been really busy,” he says, trying to take shelter from the rain. “Because of Covid I hadn’t seen friends and family for far too long. It’s been nice to take some time off, go out for some beers, and catch up with everyone. Mentally it’s been a long five years. I needed some time off.”
Carlin had wondered just how he would feel when he finally had an Olympic medal in his hands. In the end he got two, a silver in the team sprint and a bronze in the individual sprint.
Some athletes speak of a feeling of emptiness after achieving their lifelong goals, a deflating realisation that all the sacrifices and hard work hadn’t been worth it after all. It was different for Carlin, though as any doubts were swept away in a sea of euphoria.
“Cycling is my job now but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it,” he adds. “I just remember looking at my Olympic medals and thinking how much I enjoyed the journey to getting them. One of my biggest fears was thinking once I’d got my medals that it hadn’t been worth all the sacrifices. But it definitely was.
“Sport is a short career so you’ve got to enjoy it as much as you can. I went to Tokyo expecting and hoping for one medal so to come away with two is really positive from my first Games.”
Carlin’s journey to the top has not been achieved in isolation. He hasn’t forgotten all of those who helped get him to this point, his parents, the cycling coaches, and all the volunteers at race meets all around the country in the early days.
Another pint-free appointment saw him drop into his former club Glasgow Riders to talk to the next generation of cyclists, a chance to inspire but also to recall the visceral thrill that comes simply from getting on a bike.
“I told them I was just like them eight or nine years ago, a kid who loved riding his bike with everyone,” he reveals. “And the most important thing is to not take it too seriously and try to always have fun.
“The weather isn’t always great here but those were the best days. With Glasgow Riders, if it was a dry day we would go to the mini “velodrome” at Bellahouston Park. If it was a wet day you went on the mountain bikes. And everyone wanted the wet days when it was full of mud and you were sliding about!
“That’s the fun stuff that makes you feel like a kid. Even now I still love those days. And that’s the thing about bikes – you’re never too old. It gives you a sense of freedom when you’re out with just your thoughts and you can’t beat that.”
Carlin will, eventually, head back to Manchester and get back on to the bike. The next three years are already paved out for him, with the Commonwealth Games, the inaugural combined world championships in Glasgow and then the Olympics where he will try to live up to his heroes’ expectations and turn silver and bronze into gold.
“Jason’s a team-mate and it’s amazing to see what he’s done again, and Chris was one of my inspirations growing up,” he adds. “Those were kind words from both of them, it meant a lot to hear that, although I think they’re just trying to put pressure on me!
“We’ve got a massive event coming up each year for the next three years; the Commies, and then the world championships here in Glasgow, and then the Paris Olympics in 2024. So hopefully it will just be a case of building towards that year on year.
“I really want to do well at the 2023 worlds. Having a home crowd behind me and all those people who have supported me on my journey supporting me will be really special to me. Hopefully we can show what we’re made of. And from there it’s on to Paris and hopefully coming away with that colour of medal I never got in Tokyo. That’s the plan anyway.”
Renfrewshire residents can submit ideas for suggested changes and improvements in their area: www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/YouDecide