Fresh off the back of Paralympic gold, Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott are the latest English talent to be added to the Team England Athlete Ambassador programme.
Sophie, 21 and Helen, 26, won gold and silver in Rio last summer following two strong years starting at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where they claimed both the Tandem B Sprint and Tandem B Kilo titles. The pair both believe that the most important factor in their success is teamwork.
Sophie, who is visually impaired, believes that “teamwork makes the dream work” and that their friendship is a vital factor in their success.
“Helen and I get on really well which is good because with our event, we are together a lot of the time and the fact that we get on makes it so much easier and more fun. We had been together for a solid two years pre-Rio which instilled good foundations for a friendship but we still had to work on that, on and off the bike.”
As part of the fantastic support the athletes receive, Helen and Sophie were able to work on perfecting their professional relationship ahead of Rio 2016.
“We spent some time with a psychologist which was great as we got to work out a system to help us explain, for example, if one of us is tired and how you are feeling. It really helped us and makes sure that nothing build up. It doesn’t matter how good your friendship is, you still need a professional relationship as well.”
Helen added: “I think that part of the reason Sophie and I have had the success we have up to this point is because we are good friends off the bike as well.
“Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is tough because sometimes you need to have awkward conversations about needing to try harder and it happens everywhere but ultimately there are two people on the bike and the better we both are, the faster that bike is going.
“You need to get on that start line with every confidence that your partner is going to give every effort and I think that on that start line in Rio it’s exactly how we felt and it’s why we did the job.”
High hopes for the Gold Coast
Looking to continue their excellent form, both Sophie and Helen are confident of repeating their success at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Sophie said: “We would love to do it. Glasgow was the first Commonwealth Games for para cycling and we like having that accolade of being the first ever ones but we would love to.
“Hopefully we will be in a strong place, training-wise, so fingers crossed but the Australians and Scots have a strong team so it won’t be easy but it’s not meant to be. We will give it everything we have and hopefully get a PB. We are confident.”
Helen however realises that the competition will be tough in the Gold Coast, but their formidable partnership will hopefully see them come out on top next year.
“I think it is going to be really tough. The Scottish girls are very well drilled and it’s a fierce competition where they want to beat England and we want to beat them. We obviously have the Australians to worry about as well – they always put together a very tactically astute pilot on the front so the sprint is going to be a key one for us to focus on.
“We have two titles to defend and after Rio it’s boding quite well. There is a lot of competition from all different angles but we want to be the best home nation.”
As the 2018 Games draw ever closer, Sophie and Helen are extremely excited to be Team England Athlete Ambassadors.
Sophie said: “I am really excited to be a Team England Athlete Ambassador. For me, having grown up watching the Commonwealth Games and then to go and compete there was incredible.
“I didn’t think it was going to be on the cards until para cycling was brought in for Glasgow and to now be a part of the next year or so in the build-up to Gold Coast 2018 is great. Normally we wouldn’t focus on it until closer to the time but to be involved in the team and with the other ambassadors at this stage is great and I am looking forward to working with the set-up and promoting the Games.
“I want to help promote the Commonwealth Games so that it is as big as the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It deserves to be as it puts on just a good show, if not better. I am very proud to be English and to be able to support Team England is a great opportunity.”
Helen added: “I am very proud to be English and in Glasgow we had such a fantastic experience – it helped that we won and beat our Scottish competitors but I am really excited to spread the word and get the nation excited about the Commonwealth Games because we are, and I know my family are.
“I am a people person and really want to meet new people and new athletes that we wouldn’t normally meet. Every day we come to the Velodrome and see Cyclists every day but we don’t get the chance to see other athletes. It’s about seeing people, spreading the word and I am really excited to be a part of the movement.”