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Interview: Commonwealth Games gold medallists Sophie Thornhill, Helen Scott

Team England cyclists Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott speak to Sports Mole about their domination of the sport, their plans for the future and being on the podium alone.

A golden era for English sport has seen the country produce some of the most dominant sportspeople in the world today - from Anthony Joshua in boxing to Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1 - but most will be less familiar with the names of Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott.

The duo have been every bit as dominant as any other English, British or even international athlete in recent years, though - a point they emphatically pushed forward with a superlative display at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Thornhill - a visually impaired cyclist - was going into the competition fresh off winning two gold medals with two world records at the World Championships less than a month prior, and teaming up with pilot Scott she continued that form in Australia.

Two more gold medals followed - successfully defending the sprint and time trial titles they won in Glasgow four years ago - and two more world records tumbled along the way too, a month any of the great sportsmen and women of the past would be hard-pressed to beat.

There was an element of farce once they were presented their medals as they stood on the podium alone, with Commonwealth rules restricting second-placed Australia and third-placed Scotland from picking up medals due to only three teams competing.

Now a four-time Commonwealth gold medallist in addition to Paralympic and world champion, Sophie and Helen spoke to Sports Mole about their latest record-breaking exploits, their plans for the future and how it felt to pick up their medals on an empty podium.

Congratulations ladies, you are four-time Commonwealth champions! How does that sound?

Sophie: "It sounds absolutely amazing, we've worked really hard for this and to come away from these championships with two world records is absolutely amazing."

Was breaking those world records something you were aiming for going into the Games?

ST: "I suppose you're always aiming for it, you just don't get it sometimes! But yes, to come away with them is unbelievable - it's not something we expected, it's just the cherry on the cake."

You did the same at the World Championships not so long ago, so did you come into this competition feeling capable of such domination?

ST: "We knew we were in good form, it was more of a question of whether we could carry that through to these championships. Yes we could. So absolutely over the moon, really happy."

Your gold was England's first of the Commonwealth Games - did that enter your thinking ahead of the race?

Helen: "Not at all to be honest. I knew we were one of the first events but I had no idea that we were riding in the first medal ride-off, so it was a nice little surprise when we got back to know that we were the first pictures on the medal board for England."

What were you thinking when you saw the Games record being broken just before your race?

HS: "I didn't even see that happen. Me and Sophie just chat away just before the start line, so we knew that they would go fast - the Australians in front of a home crowd - we knew that they would use the crowd and go really fast, so we sort of expected that and we prepared for that.

"It's happened to us in the past but we've done this a few times now, so we're well-drilled - we got up and did the best we could and it all came together, thankfully."

So you don't take much notice of what other teams are doing in general?

HS: "Yeah, exactly. Ultimately a time trial is a race against the clock, so it almost doesn't matter at all what your competitors are doing and actually, it's a little trick we learned from Sir Chris Hoy. We asked him for some advice as he was obviously Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion in that discipline.

"He's so focused before the ride, he's visualising his own ride and I specifically asked him about the Athens 2004 win of his when the Olympic record got broken three times before him... him knowing that he had to go up and do his best ever time to win, what went through his mind and he said a similar thing to what we're saying to you now: it's just one ride, you practice it every day."

Glasgow must hold a special place in your hearts, but how do these medals compare?

ST: "Every medal means the world but I think that kilo yesterday was the best moment of our sporting career. To see a huge standing ovation from the Aussie crowd after just beating the Aussies was incredible. I think that's going to be the one that sticks with us for a long, long time now."

Did beating Jessica Gallagher in the sprint on Thursday help psychologically going into this event, when you came up against her again?

ST: "I don't know - what Helen said to you there, the kilo is a race against the clock, there's absolutely nothing we can do about the time that any other rider does.

"We can't control that. You have to control the controllables and remember that it's about you and you and your race, not the opponent."

You were the youngest member of the cycling team four years ago in Glasgow - how has your role changed for these Games?

ST: "I didn't realise I was the youngest!"

HS: "She's an old lady now."

ST: "I'm still one of the younger members of the team, but we're all teammates, we all get on and we encourage each other as equal and I think we've got a great team out here."

You've established yourself as the best in the world now - what is next for you?

ST: "We're going to have a break now, then come back and reset and see what we can do, if we can go faster - I don't know if we will but we can certainly try."

HS: "We definitely will!"

Is that break a conscious decision with one eye on Tokyo?

ST: "Yeah, we were always going to have a break. We've had 10 months with the worlds and the Commonwealth Games, so I think a break is well-deserved."

It has been a dream month for you with the World Championships as well...

ST: "To come away with four golds and four world records is amazing. We can't believe it."

What did you make of being up on the podium alone?

HS: "It's a shame because we really love and respect our competitors, they've become good friends over many years. We've had some epic battles against the Scots and the Australians. They've become really good friends.

"It's just a shame. We appreciate those are the rules of the game, but it would have been really fitting to share the podium with our friends, Aileen [McGlynn] and Louise [Haston], I think that may have been their last race together as well.

"That would have been a really nice way to finish it off, being the top three teams in the world, not just the Commonwealths. It was a shame, but that's the name of the game."

You've done your jobs now - what are your plans for the rest of the Games?

HS: "It's holiday time from tonight, so I'm off to Sydney with some family, we're going to go and explore Australia a little bit."

ST: "I fly home tomorrow and then I'm off to Iceland for a few days - it's been on the bucket list for a while so I'm going to get that ticked off."

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Sophie Thornhill of England and her guide Helen Scott celebrate with their gold medals during the medal ceremony for the Women's Sprint B2 Tandem Finals at Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome during day one of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on July 24, 2014
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