Commonwealth Games: Martyn Irvine fails to make medal impact
Martyn Irvine carried the flag for Northern Ireland in the opening ceremony at Celtic Park last Wednesday night. Over the weekend the Newtownards native was hoping to carry away his nation's first gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. It was not to be.
So often the big time performer with superhuman efforts which have taken to him World Championship glory, he looked a mere mortal inside the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow as he suffered crushing disappointments while competing for his country on Saturday and Sunday.
First up came the complicated Points Race, which is not for the fainthearted.
It is an energy sapping, mind blowing 40km over 160 laps with the winner decided by points won during sprints, which take place every 10 laps.
A tactical minefield it helps when there are team-mates around you. Irvine had none on Saturday night while other medal contenders had their pals aiding their challenge.
That didn't help the Ulsterman, but what hurt him most was that he was nowhere near his best after an encouraging start.
As the race wore on he struggled and eventually retired with 73 laps remaining knowing that he could not win a medal, preferring to save himself for the Scratch event in which he was World Champion last year and runner-up amongst the crème de la crème earlier in 2014.
Too shattered after the race to talk on Saturday about what happened, he entered the atmospheric arena last night for the concluding evening of track cycling at the Games with renewed hope and determination having qualified in the afternoon for the final.
The Scratch race was always going to have the tactics of the previous evening from the likes of New Zealand with three riders competing, but Irvine and his coaching team felt that the shorter distance of 20km would allow him to have more control of proceedings.
There was also a belief amongst those close to Martyn that once again he would pull a rabbit out of the hat with a magic display that defied belief.
After all, he had done it before not least when he won the 2013 World Scratch title with a staggering show of guts for glory in Belarus.
He was mighty impressive at the World Championships earlier this year in too in Colombia in the same event when he was runner-up.
Last night Irvine looked in reasonable form at the start gaining a lap on the field with five others, including eventual winner Shane Archbold from New Zealand, but when the pace quickened the 29-year-old didn't have the strength or pace to consolidate his position, losing the lap he had gained.
With that his chances of a medal had gone, as he ended up finishing 14th.
He cut a disconsolate figure as he wandered around the track.
He did not offer up excuses, calling it straight in defeat as he always has in triumph.
The County Down man revealed that some serious soul searching was required.
“It was horrible, there was nothing good about it. I can’t lie, it was a horrible show by myself. I feel bad, I feel like I let the team down,” he said.
“I need to re-evaluate my season and I’ll have to ask a lot of tough questions of myself. It just wasn’t there and that’s a surprise. I need to find out why.
“I’m just gutted I couldn’t fly the flag for Northern Ireland.”
Adding that the experience would be ‘character building', when quizzed about the tactical aspect and having to face three riders from other countries rather than just one, which is the case at a World Cup or World Championships, he stated: “Cycling can be a numbers game and three against one doesn’t work but that’s no excuse because I’ve beaten them all before.”
Irvine is not finished at the Commonwealth Games. On Sunday he will compete in the Road Race and will then return to his training base in Denver to prepare for the rest of his season.
Having been the flagbearer and leading Team NI into that extraordinary opening ceremony noise would have increased his desire even further to deliver and failing to do so has hit him hard.
No wonder then this genuinely good guy of Ulster sport feels that he has let the country down. He has no making up to do.
Irvine has consistently delivered on the global stage, putting male cycling in Northern Ireland on the map.
He will do so again. He's too good not to get on track again.
Also at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome yesterday, Northern Ireland’s other track cyclist, Lydia Boylan was 16th in the women's Points Race, which was won by England's Laura Trott.
Belfast Telegraph Digital