Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Neil Fachie – “I always set myself targets”

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HomeInterviewsNeil Fachie - "I always set myself targets"

We continue our series of interviews with Scotland’s selections for the 2022 Commonwealth Games with a man who needs little introduction – Commonwealth, World and Olympic Para Tandem Champion, Neil Fachie.

We make it two Olympic golds, two Olympic silvers, 14 Worlds golds, five Worlds silvers and four Commonwealth Games golds on his roll of honour. 

With Matt Rotherham he holds the flying 200 metre world record with 9.568 seconds and the standing start Kilometre world record with 58.038 seconds.

And that’s now ‘Neil Fachie OBE’ further to the Jubilee Honours List.

Congratulations on your being awarded the OBE in the Jubilee Honours List, Neil.

“Thank you, it’s nice to see your achievements recognised and it was especially nice that my wife, Lora was similarly honoured.

“We haven’t been down to receive our awards yet but I guess we’ll be invited down to London at some point?”

Neil Fachie
Neil and Lora Fachie, husband and wife, celebrate after their own individual successes in the Izu Velodrome at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Photo©SWpix.com

Where are you based these days?

“Still in Manchester but the velodrome is being refurbished so we’re training on the Derby track.”

Remind us how the Tokyo Olympics went for you.

“Matt Rotherham and I won the Kilometre Time Trial with a new world record of 58:038 taking more than a second off our old record.”

[That time is from a standing start, ed.] 

“We only had the one event, unlike the Commonwealth Games where we also have the Sprint event so it was good that I had time after it to see my wife also winning her gold in the Pursuit.”

Neil Fachie
Neil Fachie and his rider Matthew Rotherham (front) celebrate their gold medal in Tokyo. Photo©PA Wire

A ‘58’ is rapid from a standing start by any standard. 

“Our previous record was a 59.2, we were on a 123” gear in Tokyo and that’s a bit heavy to get wound up from the standing start but it pays dividends as the race goes on.

“The Tandem Kilometre is different from the solo in that your opening laps are ‘steady’ then you go quicker at the end.”  

You must have seen some changes in the bikes you ride, over the years?

“Very much so; we used to ride ‘off-the-shelf’ steel tandems which suffered from a lot of flex.

“But now we’re on UK Institute of Sport carbon fibre machines, designed by Dimitri Katsanis, which are very rigid, you feel that all your energy is going into driving the bike forward and the times we’re recording certainly reflect that.”

How many Commonwealth Games is this now – how do you maintain your motivation?

“This will be my third Games; Glasgow in 2014, Gold Coast, Australia in 2018 and now Birmingham, even though our cycling events will be ridden on the Lee Valley Velodrome in London.

“I always set myself targets to give myself something else to keep aiming for.”

Neil Fachie
Neil Fachie (l) with tandem pilot Craig MacLean won Gold in Glasgow at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Photo©Martin Williamson

You’re second on the all-time list of Commonwealth Games gold medal winners with four behind Alex Marshall the lawn bowler who’s on five gold medals – is joining him on five a target?

“I have four golds, the same as Alan Wells, the Olympic Champion sprinter, so that’s illustrious company to keep.

“Alex Marshall is competing at these Games so he may well improve upon his tally so we’ll have to see how it goes – but to equal him would be a great honour for disability sport.”

What’s your favourite event, Sprint or Kilometre?

“The Kilometre is very clear cut and dried, you just get up and ride as fast as you can; whilst the Sprint is much more exciting – you have two tandems side by side, battling it out. 

“In Glasgow in 2014 with Craig Maclean steering when we were racing the Aussies, head to head, the crowd was on their feet, loving it.” 

Neil Fachie
Craig MacLean and Neil Fachie of Scotland throw to victory in the Para Tandem Final. Photo©Martin Williamson

Your partner in Tokyo was England’s Matt Rotherham but for the Games you’ll be with your fellow countryman, Lewis Stewart, how’s the understanding coming along?

“I’ve ridden with Lewis in the past, we won a UCI Class 1 event at Manchester together with just a few weeks riding together, a year or two ago.

“We’ve been training together since the end of March, going through the basics, improving all the time – our understanding is building all the time.” 

Who are the main rivals?

“Probably my Olympic partner, Matt Rotherham who rides with James Ball for Wales.

“Matt is English but what counts is the disabled athlete’s nationality, that defines which flag the tandem rides under and James is Welsh. 

“We’re awaiting the entry list but England, Australia and Malaysia will all be present.” 

What’s the plan between now and the Games?

“We’ll be spending time in the weight room and travelling to Derby for track sessions.

“Then we’ll meet up with the rest of the Scotland team at Glasgow for a training camp, entering ‘the bubble’ and then traveling to London.”

Neil Fachie
Kilometer Time Trial winners Matt Rotherham and Neil Fachie at the Gold Coast in 2018. Photo©Herald

One race at a time; but is Paris and the 2024 Olympics on your mind?

“Definitely!

“Next year we have new Worlds format in Glasgow with all the different disciplines.

“I’m very much looking forward to that, it’ll be massive and I just love to race in front of the home crowd.

“Paris is just a year later so I might as well keep going!” 

As with all of our athletes we wish Neil every success on the boards of ‘The Pringle.’”