Cyclist Mark Downey claimed bronze at the Track Cycling World Championships but his focus has now switched to qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games.
The 22-year-old from Dromore produced a superb ride in the points race at the Pruszkow velodrome in Poland at the start of the month to force his way into third place and become a member of an exclusive club of medal winners in green
Speaking when he was back in Banbridge last week, Mark said that he had just experience the “highest point” in his career.
“It’s good to be home but what a week it’s been, the highest point in my career picking up a bronze medal in the points race at the World Track Championships in Poland.
“It’s something I grew up with, watching on the TV and now to be competing on this level is just unbelievable for me.
“I knew it was always going to be steep competition as we are halfway through an Olympic cycle and the competition has just stepped up another level. I knew I was in good shape and knew if I played my cards right, the door was wide open for me. I played my cards as best I could and I ended up with a bronze medal.
“The race was relentless just on the whole time with various people taking laps and just racing hard. The race was near a full 3kph faster than last year at 55.5kph average speed.
“The feeling after that race was just an unreal feeling, I’ve worked so hard over the years and have come within a whisker a few times and to put things right this time is crazy and being the first Irish person to win a medal in five years.”
His prized bronze medal is proof of that and, now racing with Evo Pro Racing, he intends to take a well-earned break before getting back in the saddle.
The European Games in Minsk is an important date in his calendar but he will sacrifice road racing to throw everything into qualifying for the Olympics.
“We are currently halfway through our Olympic cycle in trying to qualify Ireland’s first ever team for the Olympics which is an exciting yet tense journey, but I will continue working hard over the next year to make a dream become a reality.
“I flew home Monday evening and it all just hit me then as to what I have achieved, BBC cameras waiting for me in the airport and a proud family. The last week has been busy here, there and everywhere, with a lot of media but I’ve been enjoying it all.
“I even managed to get out with my old friends from Banbridge Cycling Club on Saturday for a spin. I always like to catch up with them as they have supported me right from the off and a simple Saturday ride with them, catching up with them all is something so little but something I try to give back to them as a thanks.
“I will continue enjoying another few more days’ down time before it’s back to work on the road with my new 2019 team Evo Pro racing.
“I have a lot of emphasis on track and they have been very understanding in what I want to do. We aren’t at Tokyo 2020 just yet but we are definitely on the road to it,” said Mark.