Paralympic cyclist Aileen McGlynn on her hopes for 2014

WATCHING Sir Chris Hoy win gold at the Manchester Commonwealth Games inspired Aileen McGlynn to get on her bike.

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Aileen and Helen Scott took silver in the Individual B 1km Cycling Time Trial at London Olympics
Aileen and Helen Scott took silver in the Individual B 1km Cycling Time Trial at London Olympics

Since then she has won six Paralympic medals and broken a host of world records at competitions around the globe.

This summer, her career will come full circle as she prepares to compete for Scotland in the velodrome named in honour of her hero and the man who sparked it all.

Aileen's rise through the ranks of competitive track para-cycling can only be described as astronomical.

Within hours of her first trial she had broken a world record.

"It was just really through the internet that I made inquiries and saw there was a para-cycling squad," explains Aileen, 40.

"Then I thought 'I wonder how good I would need to be.'"

In pride of place on the mantelpiece in her house in Crookston is a picture of her and Hoy smiling, displayed near to dozens of shiny medals and trophies she has won over the years.

Recalling her first trial in Manchester she said: "I got on the back of a tandem with Barney Storey.

"I had never ridden a tandem before, never ridden on a track before and on the second day of this test they asked us to see how fast we could go over a flying 200m - that day we broke the world record.

"I couldn't believe it. It was really exciting."

At the time Aileen, who is visually impaired, was working for an actuarial consultancy having grad-uated from Strathclyde University with a degree in mathematics, statistics and management science.

A keen cyclist when she was growing up, she had drifted away from sport when she was studying, but made a return to road cycling at the age of 29.

Despite only having 6% vision in one eye and 10% in the other, she never let her disability get in the way and regularly cycled on the roads on her own when she was growing up or training with her first club, Glenmarnock Wheelers.

"I decided there was more to life that just studying and locking myself away and I started getting back out on the bike again, " she said. "It actually helped me with my job because doing a bit of exercise stimulates your brain and it worked out well, I got a good work life balance.

"Then it was just watching Sir Chris Hoy winning his gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 that inspired me to look into what was available for disabled athletes."

The trial in Manchester proved a major turning point in her life and before long she found herself paired with pilot Ellen Hunter and in training for the Paralympics in Athens.

BUT time stood still when Ellen crashed in a race in London and faced a long recovery period.

Aileen said: "Before Athens it was a bit touch and go.

"We went to Athens being totally unknown. I think there were about 13 tandems and we were third off.

"We did the best we could and we set a new world record in the kilo. It was a really tense moment waiting for all the other tandems to finish to see whether they would go faster than us and fortunately none of them did.

"It was amazing, because I had dreamt about it for so long - I had two years thinking about it, knowing this was what I wanted to do.

"Standing on that podium with a gold medal round my neck listening to the national anthem, I thought I was dreaming."

Going into Beijing in 2008, Aileen, who was born in Paisley, was the world record holder and double world champion.

But the pressure meant nothing to her and she returned to Scotland with two gold medals.

In 2012, she was back in prime place, this time with pilot Helen Scott, at the Paralympics in London, narrowly missing out on gold to win bronze and silver.

She said: "I was defending Paralympic champion going into the London in both the kilo and the pursuit and I really wanted to achieve that again.

"Everything was on form for us to win a gold medal in the kilo but it just didn't work out on the day.

"We were two weeks out from London and we did a standing 750m trial and we were a tenth faster than the world record but it just didn't happen on the day so that was quite disappointing."

She paid the price for missing out on the top spot when she was dropped from the British squad in October last year.

But, that loss of funding and support has done nothing but fire Aileen's determination and she is aiming to win gold if she is selected for Team Scotland.

She has already got the qualifying times and is awaiting confirmation of selection in June.

"It will be amazing to compete in front of a home crowd but hopefully I won't get too distracted by that and just focus on what I've got to do on the day.

"Sometimes it's helpful to be visually impaired so you can't see the crowd watching you."

matty.sutton@eveningtimes.co.uk

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