World and European champion Emma Finucane is hoping to inspire the next generation of young girls after helping to overhaul the fortunes of Great Britain’s women’s sprint squad.

Amid the dominance Britain has enjoyed in Olympic track cycling since Beijing, there had been a glaring weakness since London 2012, with the country failing to even qualify to race in the women’s team sprint at the last two Games as Katy Marchant was left to fly the flag alone in the individual events.

But a plan put in place after Rio to address that has begun bearing fruit since Tokyo, and Britain will head to Paris on the back of team sprint silver medals at both the World Championships in Glasgow last summer and at the European Championships in Apeldoorn in January.

Sophie Capewell, Lauren Bell and Milly Tanner have all earned their place on British Cycling’s Olympic Podium Programme alongside Marchant, and Finucane, 21, made herself the poster girl of the revolution with individual sprint titles at both world and European level in the last seven months.

“Women’s track sprinting has come on loads and I think that’s down to the strength in depth we have,” Finucane told the PA news agency while watching the next set of hopefuls race at the British National Championships in Manchester.

“Even at the nationals we have so many girls breaking personal bests and pushing each other on. We have that internal competition and it really, really helps the women’s sprint. Hopefully in Paris we will have a team sprint and that hasn’t been the case for the last two cycles.

“That is super exciting and I think it shows we can do it, we work just as hard as everyone else and the results will come.

“I hope to inspire younger people to get into sprinting because I didn’t really know a lot about it when I was younger. All you would see was Laura Kenny and the endurance riders, so I think it’s a huge thing for the women’s sprint.”

Finucane surprised herself with her victory in Glasgow last year, a title that thrust her onto the shortlist of favourites for Olympic success in Paris. But only three years ago she was a fresh-faced teenager trying to find her way around the Manchester velodrome after moving from home in Wales.

“I moved up in January of 2021 and I didn’t think Paris was a possibility for me,” she said. “I’m quite young and I’d just moved out of home and only just purely started track sprinting. My career progressed from there and I’m now trying to qualify for the Games so it really is exciting.

“I’ve just tried to take each race as it comes like I always do. I think there has been a part of my career that has happened quite quickly but I wouldn’t have it any other way, just living and riding my bike with these amazing girls around.”

The rainbow jersey has brought added attention and expectation but Finucane’s individual win at the Euros in January, again beating the German duo of Lea Friedrich and Emma Hinze who might expect to be the primary opposition in Paris, suggests she is handling it just fine.

“I’m aware of (the expectations) but I’m just going to try and enjoy the journey, not just focus on the outcome,” she said.

“I feel like that’s where people get lost. It’s a journey and there’s still a long way to go. I’m trying to enjoy the people around me, I still have my circle around me, and I just want to enjoy racing. I feel that’s when I’m at my best.”

Emma Finucane is trying to ignore her new status as sprint world champion as she sets her sights on achieving Olympic glory in Paris next summer.

The 20-year-old Welshwoman shocked herself when she took the women’s individual sprint title in Glasgow in August, beating Germany’s favoured Lea Friedrich in the final.

Finucane donned the rainbow jersey for the first time in competition at the UCI Track Champions League opening round in Mallorca this weekend, but while the distinctive striped jersey means she can no longer keep herself inconspicuous, she does not want it to change her approach.


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“People will look at me now,” Finucane told the PA news agency. “Last year I was kind of the underdog and I just came through so now I am wearing the stripes. I hope that doesn’t really change anything.

“I’m just trying to ignore it and just race my bike, but there is some external pressure. I’m not just Emma at the back of the field anymore.”

The rainbow jersey can do different things for different riders. While many take it as a confidence boost, for others the stripes have worn heavily. Finucane said she had spoken to several Great Britain team-mates about how to deal with it.

“I don’t want to look at it (as giving me a psychological edge) because if I lose, then what?” she said. “And I will get beaten, and that’s fine. I just need to take it as it comes.

“Half of it is the mental battle of putting it on and people looking at you and having that pressure, but I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy it because you don’t know if it will happen again.

“Beth Shriever is a really good friend of mine and she’s been the BMX world and Olympic champion. She said she didn’t have the best year in the rainbow jersey because she put too much pressure on herself and she overthought it.

“I’ve spoken to Evie (Richards, 2021 mountain bike world champion) and Katie Archibald (a five-time world champion on the track) and I’m lucky we have so many inspiring women in the Great Britain team. It’s great I can learn from them but ultimately I will only learn from myself and how I deal with it.”

And Finucane believes the Champions League – the made-for-TV track cycling series which is in its third season – is the ideal place to do much of that learning, providing some top-level competition without the stresses and pressures that come elsewhere.

“The next event I’ll do in the rainbows is the Euros (in January) which is when everything is serious,” she said. “I’m not saying this isn’t serious, but it’s a nice place to be free to fail. You can try new things.”

Saturday’s racing in Palma saw Finucane finish second in the sprint, beaten by Germany’s Alessa-Catriona Propster, before failing to make the keirin final through some tired legs. But it was just the sort of experience she was looking for when it came to dealing with her new status.

Finucane will wear the stripes into an Olympic year but despite her status is taking nothing, not even squad selection, for granted.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” she said. “I’d love to go and I’m really pushing myself but I need to take each race as it comes. If I just think about Paris and everything else goes wrong I’ll not be going.

“But it’s in the back of my mind because since I was 10 years old I’ve wanted to ride the Olympics.

“As the GB sprint team we’ll not just be going there to ride but we’re looking for medals and I fully believe we have the potential to win. It’s super exciting but also super scary.”

Emma Finucane capped a breakout year as she became Britain’s first women’s sprint world champion in a decade at the UCI Cycling World Championships.

The 20-year-old got the better of Germany’s Lea Friedrich to win the final 2-0, the first time Britain had picked up a medal of any colour in this event since Becky James took the world title in 2013.

“It’s pretty surreal to be honest,” the Welsh rider said. “I can’t really believe that I’m world champion.

“I don’t think it will ever sink in but I really wanted this, I worked really hard for this with my coach Kaarle (McCulloch) and the team back in Manchester so it’s definitely super special.

“Especially after coming so close in the team sprint and then crashing in the keirin, but everything happens for a reason and this was meant to happen for me so it’s super special.”

Finucane has been a key part of Britain’s changing fortunes in the women’s sprint and last week was part of the trio that won team sprint silver alongside Sophie Capewell and Lauren Bell, building on their bronze last year.

This year she has also picked up four national titles, a Nations Cup win in Cairo, and two silver medals at the European championships.

“After winning in Cairo I knew it was in there and it’s just executing,” she said. “I knew I could do it, it’s just how you do it.

“This year has been pretty special for me and I’ve broken through but there’s still so much more to come for Paris, and I’m excited to start that journey again.”

There were emotional scenes with McCulloch, who is leaving her post after these championships for personal reasons, in tears during the celebrations.

“Emotions are super high because Kaarle is leaving and I feel like this was my last race with her and to win it with her and for her is super special,” Finucane added.

“I knew I was going well after the team sprint so I really wanted it in the keirin and after crashing I just used that as motivation to give everything and show everyone that I can do it.”

Jack Carlin missed out the medals in the men’s keirin on his home track as he took fifth place in the final, with Will Perrett also fifth in the men’s points race.

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