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‘It seems a lot more real discussing it with her’ – Tokyo medalist Neah Evans on sharing Olympic memories with her mother Ros

Olympic silver medalist, Neah Evans at home near Cuminestown.
Olympic silver medalist, Neah Evans at home near Cuminestown.

Outside Neah Evans’ parents home, on the outskirts of Cuminestown, stands an old bicycle on a small patch of grass.

Painted silver, it is the brainchild of Evans’ father Malcolm, in recognition of her achievement in the team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month.

“Dad sprayed the bike and it looks pretty cool,” said Evans, now a Team GB Olympic medallist. “I don’t know how long it’s going to stay up, maybe until the next big storm.

“It’s difficult for people to navigate their way here sometimes, so you can say ‘it’s the one with the bike outside’.

Neah Evans at her parents' home near Cuminestown.
Neah Evans at her parents’ home near Cuminestown.

“Mum and dad are very good at keeping you grounded – ‘seeing as you’re here, can you do these jobs?’

“Because I’m not here that often, it’s almost got a novelty factor. I quite enjoy it.”

She has had little time to switch off and deconstruct her summer achievements. The World Track Cycling Championships take place in a couple of months and represent the next challenge around the corner.

Losing a year of the Olympic cycle for Paris 2024, due to the pandemic, means any time off will eat into precious qualifying preparation. There is also the Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham, where Evans should represent Scotland again.

The change in environment has helped. Spending time at her parents’ home in Aberdeenshire provided a blissful change of pace from Manchester and has also allowed her to swap Olympic stories with her mother, Ros.

Ros Evans competed at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, in the cross-country skiing. She is also a former national orienteering champion.

“She had a photo album and one of the things we realised was there was next to no media at the time. There’s a picture outside the newsagents with the headline ‘local woman at the Olympics’ and that was it.

“There’s similar elements in the build-up. It’s not so much the pressure – she had a team-mate who had an accident just before so she knew of how easy it was for something to go wrong, at the last minute, and your Olympics is over.

“She probably felt a huge amount of stress and then relief when we started. She’s been in the situation where you’re fit and ready to get started but then something goes wrong and you can’t compete.

“We get a huge amount of kit and I’ve passed some of it on. We were laughing about how much I got and how much she got.

“It’s only when you come back and reflect on it. It seems a lot more real discussing it with her. There’s a different buzz to it and it’s definitely something special we’ve got.”

Her Olympic experience was more condensed and subdued than it could have been.

Covid restrictions meant there were no big celebrations after the final. Evans was also on standby for Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald – two of her team-mates in the team pursuit – in the madison.

The women's team pursuit podium with Katie Archibald, Neah Evans, Laura Kenny and Josie Knight of Great Britain.
The women’s team pursuit podium with Katie Archibald, Neah Evans, Laura Kenny and Josie Knight of Great Britain.

She sat out the first round of team pursuit on the Monday but was drafted in 24 hours later for the semi-finals and final. Olympic preparation condensed into one session.

“In some sense it was nice, because you just build towards this pinnacle. But then you’re not ready for it to be over.

“It doesn’t really feel like a major games, because there was only track cyclists in the village. We were allowed to cycle between the village and the velodrome but I was also the reserve rider for the madison, so I couldn’t completely switch off.

“Yes it was a very slim chance, but at a moment’s notice I could get the chance to race again. As much as it would have been nice to think I was done, I wanted to keep myself ticking over. I wasn’t going to blow that chance if I was given it.”

Neah Evans won silver in the women’s team pursuit in Tokyo.

Her story of veterinarian to Olympian, with the five years between Rio and Tokyo as a framing device, is one Evans takes pride in.

In those intervening years, she won two Commonwealth Games medals for Scotland in 2018 and will likely be a medal contender again next year. There is also the Paris 2024 Olympics to aim for.

In the short-term, Evans is in Spain as her fiancé and British champion cyclist Jonny Wale embarks on a training camp. The heat will be a little different to the Aberdeenshire countryside.

She recently celebrated her 31st birthday within the Olympic bubble but in life and on the track, Evans has no designs on slowing down.

“I still feel very much as if I’m developing and learning. I think back to the training I was doing in the years before Tokyo and it was good, but it wasn’t brilliant. I’m training better than I was then, so where am I going to be in Paris if I keep going?

“I think that’s really exciting. I get questions about me being a little bit older – with my time in sport I’m probably still a bit of a newbie. I definitely feel I’ve got many years left.

“You see people when they get towards the end of their careers and there seems to be two distinct types.

“You’ve got ones who go out on top – ‘I’ve won this major race, I don’t think I can top it’ – versus the one who just loves the sport so much and wants to keep going as long as they can. I want to keep going and I don’t want to be beat.”

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