PHILOSOPHY-reading GB cyclist and OM Lewis Oliva is all set for his second appearance for Wales at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow… and this time he’s only thinking of a place on the podium
The Open University student from Devauden, who is often seen trackside reading Descartes as part of his degree course, says ahead of the Glasgow Games: “Last time at 18 I was picked for experience in Delhi. This time I’m going for gold.
“Team Wales have invested in me, so I’m pleased to be in the position to pay back Welsh Cycling, hopefully with a world class performance and a medal.”
A training partner of the likes of Olympic champions Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny at the National Velodrome in Manchester, the 22-year-old Old Monmothian goes in the sprints and the keirin in Welsh colours after a season that saw him take two bronze medals at his first World Cup event in Mexico.
“The World Cup was amazing,” said Lewis, while preparing for the German Grand Prix near Berlin. “I have gained so much in confidence and I’m indebted to Team Wales and my trade team USN for providing me with the opportunity to race on the world stage.
“In the keirin, we are racing in a close group of the strongest and fastest riders at speeds in excess of 70kph, and you have to be able to make split second decisions to win a race or even stay alive!
“Racing at the World Cup has improved my decision making hugely, and now I’m excited and ready to race in Glasgow. There are no other opportunities to represent Wales at a multi-sport event like the Commonwealth Games, so it’s something fantastic to look forward to.
“I am very proud every time I pull on the Welsh kit. We punch well above our weight globally with the likes of Geraint Thomas and Becky James and I am so excited to be part of such a talented team.”
Sky-backed rider Lewis is pinning his main hopes for success on the keiren, a motor-paced race in which track cyclists sprint for victory following a speed-controlled start
“It’s a race combining courage and tactics, anything can happen. It’s my favourite event, and I’m going for gold!
“The individual sprint will be tough, with the likes of GB Olympic champion training partners Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes for England, Australia’s Matthew Glaetzer, New Zealand’s Sam Webster and Scotland’s Callum Skinner making it fiercely contested.”
But Lewis admits his involvement with track cycling came about by chance.
“My brother enrolled on a ‘learn to ride’ course at Newport Velodrome, but he crashed at his first session, so I took his place.
“I was hooked straight away by the thrill of the speed coming off the banking and haven’t looked back since.
“I was talent spotted by a coach at a regional sprint event and was accepted onto the Olympic Development Program whilst still at Monmouth School.
“I was then offered a place at the Olympic Academy based in Manchester at 18 and last year I accepted a contract on the GB podium programme representing GB at senior level. Now I’m based in Manchester, training at the National Velodrome and English Institute of Sport. “Training with Olympic champions really pushes you on to achieving excellent performances, although it’s a normal ‘day at the office’ being alongside them.”
And looking ahead to Rio and the 2016 Olympics, he adds: “Bring it on. Selection will be tight as we have a pool of world class sprinters, but I will be doing everything I can to ensure that I’m in the team.”
And no doubt, with philosophy book at hand between sprint sessions, the power of positive thought will come in handy turning his wheels that bit faster…