Track cyclist Hayden Norris spent the week before the Commonwealth Games in his parents’ spare room playing video games and praying for a negative Covid test.
The Staffordshire star tested positive for the virus on return from the U23 European Championships in Portugal, imperilling his Team England debut.
Norris got the clear result he needed on the morning of the keirin sprint competition and hot-footed it down to London’s velodrome.
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“I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen,” said Norris, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“It felt like a win just to get on the start line. It’s a really special home Games, with the crowd behind me, and I’m so happy I managed to make it in time.”
The 19-year-old’s precarious Games saw him narrowly miss out in the repechage stage of the keirin.
The keirin competition was marred by a serious crash involving Norris’s team-mate Joe Truman that left him concussed and with a broken collarbone.
He then finished a disappointing 19th in individual sprint qualifying, with his flying lap effort of 10.129 seconds some way short of the requirement to reach quarter-finals.
Norris’s Team England debut ended on a high note however as he ripped out a personal best of 1:01.285 for the 1000m time trial.
He said; “I wasn’t sure how isolation would affect my ride. I’m a kilo rider, that’s my speciality.
“I had no idea what to expect coming into it so to come away with a personal best, I’m pretty happy. I can put a lot of it down to the home crowd and the noise got me round the last lap.
“The crowd really makes a difference and given what’s happened, putting out a great time is even more special.”
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