Catching up with Kirsty

13 August 2022

Kirsty Johnson became junior women's kierin champion while also winning silvers in the sprint and 500m TT competitions.

Photo: © Huw Williams

A recent posting on the SC website noted that ERC’s junior track sprinter would be travelling to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games with other young cyclists. I was intrigued as to why she should go? When I finally caught up with our busy clubmate her story had taken several twists.

Her trip to Brum was supported by Scottish Cycling under the Team Scotland Achieve Program which encompasses athletes from many sports. The first wave of athletes included Kirsty and track endurance rider Calum Moir, while a second wave contained Emily Carrick-Anderson and former ERC member Reuben Oakley. Each group was mentored by a former top athlete, in Kirsty’s case this was a swimmer. The objective of the trip was to give athletes a multi-sport games experience without the pressure of performing. Clearly there are expectations for her future involvement with such games, so no pressure on that front.

Participants attended workshops on different sports, met with athletes, and visited the one of the villages. At Scotland House she witnessed how the support network of familiar faces allowed athletes to socialise with friends and family, and so decompress in a friendly environment. Kirsty was even able to keep training by using the gym facilities. In addition she attended gymnastics and weight lifting competitions. The icing on the cake must have been a sojourn to the ‘off-site’ velodrome in London’s Olympic Park? Or was it the front row seat at the opening ceremony? It all added up to a super motivational experience (her words).

Next was the plot twist. Before I was able to catch up with her, I saw a photo of her on social media wearing a British champion’s jersey and gold medal medal hanging from her neck. I had to phone to catch-up. Here is what I found.

Shortly after returning to Scotland from the Games, Kirsty headed to the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales in Newport for the British Youth and Junior Track Championships. She was accompanied by sister Sarah and driver/soigneur/father Andrew. It was a fruitful trip.

Day one contained the junior women’s sprint. After qualifying a disappointing fifth in the time-trial she reached the semis where she won 2-0 and finally got under 12s for the 200m. Clearly she was getting stronger and progressed into the final. After two rounds of the final the riders were level. In the event Kirsty lost the decider by virtue of abandoning her pre-race plan mid-ride. With margins so tight (6 hundredths of a second) there’s no time to haver or hesitate. A silver medal resulted.

The second day saw Kirsty win the gold medal that was highlighted on Facebook. She had easily made her way through the first round by finishing in second place in heat 2,. So to the final. Twist number two was that her younger sister Sarah won the first kierin heat (youth riders ‘ride-up’ against juniors when there is no equivalent for youths). A subplot in the final was a showdown between the Johnson sisters. Unbelievably, Sarah crossed the line first despite being on lower gears although she hadn’t raced the previous day. However, the commissaires intervened after seeing her deviate from the sprinters’ lane in the dash for the line. In twist number three, Sarah was DQ’ed so this year the honours went to Kirsty but next year, who knows? Kirsty came away with a champion’s jersey but Sarah deserves to tell her own story, so please tune in later.

Photo: Man Down Media

On day four, Kirsty was hoping to repeat her gold medal ride in the 500m TT. It didn’t happen and in the event she brought home another silver medal making three races and three medals. Not a bad haul.

These medals are underpinned with some hard work. Kirsty has been coached in Scotland by Scottish Cycling’s sprint coach David Daniel but has also been guesting on the GB junior academy. David has recently left SC for the GB para programme so Kirsty is currently coachless, awaiting David’s successor. She continues training, a typical week consists of 3-4 sessions in the gym, a heavy track session, and low-gear recovery rides at the weekends to keep her cadence high. These do vary with periodisation. Needless to say the formula appears to be paying off.

John Gow, himself a Scottish Commonwealth Games squad member and one of the track coaches, remembers her this way. Starting with the funniest moment:

I remember Kirsty finishing a Youth Track session and waiting to see what was going on in the adult “improver” session that followed. I told her to get up on to the track and join in, knowing she would be able to hold her own. She was having none of it and didn’t think she could keep up. With a bit of persuasion, I managed to get Kirsty up on to the track and to join in. Not only could she keep up, she was holding her own in the group and gave as good as she got. Not only did she finish the improver session, she was so full of excitement, she went home via multiple laps of the Arthur’s seat circuit. I’m sure it must have been a 5 hour day all in all.

Having Kirsty attending the Games will have such a positive impact on current members particularly as they will see that the club offers a pathway to compete at international level. The club has a well developed training pathway that develops Youth riders through fun weekly events all year round, providing the opportunity to get involved in local and national events. There are many cycling disciplines available in the club making it possible to develop from Youth to Junior and into senior level cycling. Current members will see that Kirsty has been involved from Youth racing in the club all the way through to representing club and country through the club development process. They will see that the club coaching provides the development pathway for them to go as far as they want to go with all the encouragement they need from the coaching staff.

I want to wish Kirsty the best of times.

Opportunities like this come as a result of hard work and I want Kirsty to know that it is well deserved. Keep enjoying riding your bike and keep doing what you love.

So what of the future? She has recently applied for the senior academy at British Cycling which means a move to Manchester and becoming a full-time athlete. We know that competition for the programme is tough and places are limited. Whatever happens, ERC are proud of what she has achieved. Her experiences at the Birmingham Games will put her in a good place for the future. Good luck Kirsty.

You can read more about the youth and junior track championships here

Kirsty and Sarah were not the only ERC riders at the championships. The ERC Goodson Race Team was represented by Anna Birrell, Ahron Dick, Struan Shaw and James Sweeny.

Photo: © Man Down Media

Photo: © Kirsty Johnson

Photo: © Kirsty Johnson

Photo: © Kirsty Johnson

Photo: © Kirsty Johnson