Downey geared up for medal chase as Stewart motivated by Track Cycling World Championship debut
Dromore cycling star Mark Downey is hoping his wait to be crowned world champion could come to an end on Friday evening.
The 21-year-old is racing for Team Ireland in the points race at the UCI Tracking Cycling World Championship in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.
He has already won three World Cup gold medals but only the winner of the World Championships is entitled to call themselves a world champion.
Hopes had been high that Downey could take that step last year in Hong Kong but in the end, he had to settle for a disappointing 10th.
Now he's hoping that experience will herald a better placing this time around.
"I got a trial to see what it was like last year, with the whole experience of it," he told BBC Sport NI. "Maybe too much pressure got to me and it affected my performance. I feel like I'm in the same shape I was in last year so I'm hoping I can put in a better performance.
"I have my sights set on getting on the podium. Last year I didn't have my day but fingers crossed this year can be a better one."
Downey will also be in action in Sunday's Madison, racing alongside Felix English.
On Thursday, Beragh man Marc Potts finished 13th in the men's scratch race.
Belfast cyclist Robyn Stewart also made her World Championships debut, becoming the first woman to represent Ireland in the sprint race. She finished 24th and told the Belfast Telegraph she's hoping that can prove another valuable experience in preparation for next month's Commonwealth Games.
"I’m happy with my debut and delighted to be Ireland’s first female sprinter to compete at this level," she said. "To get into the top ten I needed to go at least three-tenths of a second quicker in qualification. I know I can do that with a lot more hard work.
"I have a lot to learn but I’m taking it all in and feeling so grateful for all of these opportunities. I'm 24th in the world, it’s a good start.
"I’ve come a long way in three years. This experience has made me hungry to get better, train harder and get faster. This is a stepping stone to the Commonwealth Games next month and a step towards my Olympic dream of competing at Toyko 2020."
Dublin-born Lydia Boylan, who has represented Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games, will race in Friday's Omnium and Saturday's Madison.
"We're not that little team anymore," she told the BBC. "We're competitive and ones to watch in the races. Especially in the omnium for me, there's a lot of pressure to continue my progress. I'll definitely be looking for a good result this time."
Downey, Potts and Stewart will all represent Northern Ireland at next month's Commonwealth Games.
Belfast Telegraph Digital