Rio Olympics: Becky James doubted selection chances at start of 2016

Becky James
Becky James first came to prominence winning a silver and bronze for Wales at the 2010 Commonwealth Games
Olympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 5-21 August Time in Rio: BST -4
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Cyclist Becky James says that as recently as the start of 2016 she was not sure she would make the Olympics.

The 2013 double world champion missed the 2012 London Games because of injury and struggled with form and fitness before gaining selection for Rio.

"If you'd said to me seven months ago 'keep training hard you'll be going to the Olympics' I probably would have said no," James admitted.

"I really can't believe it, this is just surreal for me."

James will compete in the keirin on the track at Rio.

The Welsh racer won gold in the keirin and sprint at the 2013 Track World Championships in Minsk, but was then plagued for two-years with shoulder and knee injuries, as well as enduring a cancer scare.

Her return to the track in August 2015 saw James a long way off the pace and she faced a tough and unsuccessful World Cup series before making a breakthrough at the World Championships in London in March, 2016.

The tough road to Rio

"I remember my first race back in August and I was just so off the pace and I couldn't see how I could get back to where I was or even better, because I knew the rest of the world just keeps moving on," said the 24-year-old from Abergavenny.

"I struggled in the World Cup - I had to race in the World Cup to qualify for the World Championships and if I didn't do that I wouldn't qualify for the Olympics.

"I didn't really get any results in the World Cups and I was losing belief in myself and after Hong Kong [World Cup event] I had five weeks of training before the Worlds and something just changed.

George North
Boyfriend George North will be among Becky James' "family" of supporters in Rio

"I was really happy and I just thought 'whatever happens now is just going to be' and I think that's what helped me get into the final of Keirin."

James finished third in the final, a moment she puts on an equal footing with her best in the sport.

"For me it was on a par with winning my world titles," she said.

"I would never have imagined winning a medal again so it felt like a gold medal for me and I think for the rest of the team too."

Family of supporters

James puts her return to the British team down to her own hard work and help from coaches and those close to her.

"I think [it was] the support from my family, George [North] my boyfriend and all the staff at British cycling," added James.

"They kept saying they believed in me, and that they knew I'd get back - but I just found it really hard on those darker days but I'm glad I knuckled through now."

And the family will be in Rio to cheer her and the British team as they try to emulate their nine-medal haul from the track in 2012.

"There's a big crowd of my family. I've got eight supporters - both my parents are coming," she said.

"And George, my grandparents, my uncle and my auntie who live in Argentina and my little sister so, yeah, it's a big family outing.

"Obviously there's a little bit of pressure, but for me I've got my own mindset, I know exactly what I want to do and I'm going to keep it that way and, you know, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to just enjoy every minute of it."

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