Strong pumped to give best shot

Corbin Strong
Corbin Strong is the youngest member of the men’s cycling team pursuit and a back-up for the Madison. Photo: supplied
Corbin Strong is ready for whatever Tokyo has to throw at him.

When you are 21 and fearless, and when you have been through a serious accident that threatened your entire career, you can handle anything.

Strong, a Southland Boys’ High School old boy, is part of a New Zealand cycling team aiming for multiple medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

He is the youngest member of the men’s team pursuit and a back-up for the Madison.

On the track, he knows almost exactly what to expect. It is the wider Olympic experience — and the strict regulations and routines around dealing with Covid-19 — that might throw up the unexpected, but Strong is not concerned.

"It’s going to be different, but it’s my first Olympics, so I’ve got nothing to compare it to," he told the Otago Daily Times from New Zealand cycling’s Cambridge base yesterday.

"It’s a shame I’m not going to experience the opening ceremony or different aspects of the Olympics that you hear about, but it’s still a really special time for me.

"It will be different. I guess they will be remembered as the Covid Olympics.

"But I’m sure it’s still going to be an amazing experience for everyone involved.

"It’s getting pretty exciting, especially seeing a lot of other New Zealanders who train with us already in Tokyo and getting ready for their various events.

"I’m just pumped to get over there and give it our best shot."

Strong said the New Zealand riders were lucky to get their Covid vaccinations a couple of months ago.

He was not worried about the situation in Japan.

"Everyone is going to be doing a thorough job of keeping everyone safe.

"We’re also actually a couple of hours south of Tokyo, in a separate cycling village, so I think we’re in one of the best positions of anyone.

"There are no real worries or concerns at our end. We’ll just do what we can to keep ourselves safe."

Strong was just 19 when he stunned the cycling world with victory in the points race at the world championships in February last year.

The wonderful performance was remarkable, considering he had fought his way back from a frightening accident in 2018.

He had been hoofing along a country road during a training session when he collided with a stationary vehicle, fracturing his T1 vertebra.

Strong and team-mates do not head to Tokyo until Monday, as they do not start competing until August 2.

The pursuit team was fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics and won silver at the last world championships in Berlin, so a medal in Japan is well within reach.

"We’re definitely one of the favourites. Maybe we’re second-favourite behind the Danes.

"I think we’re a good medal hope, and a realistic ambition is to win it all.

While he is "gutted" his supportive parents will not be able to be trackside in Tokyo, Strong knows he will have huge support from Southlanders, and hopes to reward them with a shiny thing around his neck.

- Additional reporting Adrian Seconi

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