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Olympic champion Skinner reaches end of his "long and amazing journey"

Olympic champion Skinner reaches end of his
© Reuters
Following health issues, Skinner is to now focus on assisting British Cycling on future athlete development.

Olympic champion sprinter Callum Skinner has announced his retirement from cycling at the age of 26.

The Scot's finest hour came at the Rio Olympics where he was part of Britain's gold-medal winning sprint squad before finishing second to team-mate Jason Kenny in the individual event.

Although not unexpected, Skinner's exit 17 months out from the Tokyo Games is a blow to British medal hopes as the men's sprint squad was off the pace of their rivals at last week's UCI Track Cycling World Championships.

Skinner has not raced since winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last April, since when he has spent time becoming an increasingly influential voice in the corridors of power, speaking out on issues such as governance, athlete welfare, anti-doping and LGBT rights.

Last month he joined Global Athlete, a new body aiming to provide a greater voice to Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

"It's been a long and amazing journey, starting out in the cold of Meadowbank, Edinburgh in 2006 to peaking at the Olympic Velodrome in the Team Sprint at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016," Skinner said in a statement.

"Cycling has been very good to me, I've made lifelong friends and realised my dream for which I am eternally privileged.

"I appreciate that 26 might seem to many quite young to be transitioning away from the track, but I have never considered myself just an athlete; I consider myself far more than that."

Skinner had announced he was taking a break from the sport in August last year, citing the challenge of re-motivating himself after Rio, but at the time said Tokyo was still his target.

But in Thursday's announcement Skinner said health problems were also a concern and factored into his decision.

"My last competition and podium place was at the Commonwealth Games in The Gold Coast in 2018; it was great to finish on a high," he said.

"Since that time, I have been on an extended break due to my health deteriorating. This has proved to be a very challenging time.

"Through seeking help outside the programme, and by the unswerving support of my friends, family and agent, I have made incredible progress and I'm pleased to say have almost fully recovered.

"My focus and effort now lies in working in partnership with British Cycling to continue to make the athlete experience more human whilst still maintaining that performance mindset. These two essential aspects are not mutually exclusive of each other."

While Britain has dominated the men's sprint events at recent Olympics, they struggled in the world championships in Pruszkow last week.

The team sprint squad, led by Kenny, failed to reach the medal rides, while Jack Carlin's fifth place in the keirin was the best result in any event.

Coaches expressed confidence, however, the team can peak in time for Tokyo.

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