LONG BEFORE the Commonwealth Games, Nicholas Paul was a cycling star.
But with his historic triple-medal haul, Mr Paul has cemented his place in this country’s sporting history and, in the process, reminded us of the powerful potential of sport.
We hope the country capitalises on his momentum.
And what momentum. First came gold on Saturday in the keirin, then silver on Sunday in the men’s sprint, then Monday’s time-trial bronze. In one weekend, Mr Paul reignited the local cycling fraternity and inspired thousands at home and abroad.
“I hope I just continue with the same flow and continue riding and racing smart,” he said on Saturday, just after bagging this country’s first medal at the games since 1974.
The same must also be true of how sport is administered and used in this country going forward.
Mr Paul’s achievements come at a time of considerable concern about social problems plaguing the land. The idea that sport can play a role in diverting young people away from crime is not controversial, but the ways sporting programmes and facilities have been set up are.
Many cyclists before Mr Paul’s time have come and gone, and all of them will probably complain about the same things if you ask them. There is at times a feeling that cycling in this country is neglected.
Despite substantial investment in infrastructure, cycling is still something seen as hazardous – even as the world turns to it more and more amid the climate crisis.
Meanwhile, in a post-pandemic world, there is an ongoing debate over the relevance of big, expensive international tournaments such as the ongoing games. Last year’s belated staging of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics triggered discussion over whether the prestige of such games remains. This year’s World Cup in Qatar, which was pushed back from summer months to winter, already has its sceptics.
As the Commonwealth Games opened, the UK commemorated ten years since the 2012 London Olympics, with some British media commentators assessing the long-term impact of that event on UK sport as being dubious.
For various reasons, big names like British swimmer Tom Daley and Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce opted not to participate in the Commonwealth Games, which was once called the British Empire Games.
In addition to some athletes focusing on more lucrative opportunities, there is an ongoing discussion about the relevance of the Commonwealth.
These are factors which make Mr Paul’s achievement more notable, not less so. It clearly took focus and determination not only to compete in individual events, but to do so over successive events and to give consistently podium-worthy performances.
Now it’s the State’s turn, through measures to encourage cycling, to do the same.