Loughborough College student Sophie Thornhill says she is ‘over the moon’ to have been selected to represent Britain in Rio this summer.
A four-time world and two-time Commonwealth champion, this will be cyclist Sophie’s first Paralympic Games.
The 20 year old Sport student is visually impaired and, together with pilot Helen Scott, is amongst 11 riders and four pilots named for the team.
Sophie’s debut at the Para-cycling world championships in 2014 saw her break two world records and win two world titles and for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in the same year she paired up with Helen Scott to represent England – going on to win the gold medal in both the sprint and kilo events.
The year was rounded off with Sophie being named in the top three for the BBC’s Young Sport Personality of the Year Award.
In 2015 Sophie retained her world champion title in both the kilo and sprint events at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Holland, once again with Helen Scott.
“It felt amazing to be confirmed for Rio,” Sophie told Loughborough College.
“I am so proud of the work we have done to get us to this point but even when the results are going your way and it looks as if you’re heading in the right direction you can never be sure.
“So to get that call saying, ‘You’re going’ felt amazing. It’s a dream come true.
“I am easing off my Loughborough College work for now so I can focus but everyone there completely understands. A lot of the staff are elite or former elite athletes themselves so they realise the demands you have on you.
“They give me flexibility so I can get the most from my training and from my academic work and that really helps reduce pressure – I can’t thank them enough for their support.
“I really am so excited about Rio and can’t wait to get there, to experience that village life and to be actually racing in the Paralympics – and to be doing it with my pal Scottie is amazing.
“We have had two solid years training and competing together and having that consistency has seen our riding improve no end.
“All that time spent on a tandem on the road and on the track has seen us become really good friends. This can be hard work so you need a bit of fun – and we certainly have that. We’ve even been on holiday together.
“If things aren’t going our way in Rio me and Helen will have a few laughs and we’ll be there for each other and if we win we will certainly be celebrating.”
Sophie had never experienced anything like the squad announcement at Channel 4 in London on Thursday. “It was a real whirlwind but brilliant fun.”
But now it’s back to training. “We set out our plan a long time ago and we are already deep into it, getting our heads down and cracking on.
“We train six days a week with two or three double days, plus time in the gym. There is a great team behind us helping us get the nutrition right, the sprinting right … It’s busy but we’re getting some good results and that helps us along the way.
“The set up in Rio will be quite different. Normally we race at 4.00 or 5.00 in the evening but in Brazil it will be 10.00 in the morning. So we’ll do a few training sessions at that time to get used to being off early. I think that will actually suit me better because normally I would be spending all day getting nervous.
“All my family our coming out to Rio - my mum and dad and brother – and my boyfriend. They’ve supported me so much and it will be great to have them all there.
“I’ll get some time off after the Games – I’ve already booked a holiday.
“But I can’t think about that. Now, everything is focused on that one day in September.”
Pictured: Loughborough College student Sophie Thornhill in action (Courtesy British Cycling)
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