Shannon McCurley created history last year in Rio de Janeiro becoming the first Irish female track cyclist to compete at an Olympic games, and this hasn’t been the only success of her career. As a junior cyclist, one of her highlights was when aged just 15, she won the Burnie criterium in Tasmania beating the Elite Australian criterium champion as well as many other internationals. She is also extremely proud of the bronze medal she won in the scratch race at the u23 European Championships. But her hard work and progression in the Keirin discipline over the last three years to qualify for last year’s Olympics in Rio is what stands out above the rest. Now, she has her eyes set on three years’ time, and Olympic glory in Tokyo.
Though Shannon was born in Melbourne, Australia, she’s a Dublin girl true and true. Her whole family is Irish and most of them on both sides still live in around Dublin, so it wasn't a hard choice for her to declare her loyalties for the green jersey. Shannon’s Grandad, who has had a strong influence on her life, was one of the main drivers behind her decision making process.
At a young age, Shannon developed a keen interest running, but a knee injury at the age of 14 forced her to switch to cycling for rehabilitation. Initially Shannon wanted to try competing in triathlons, but when she simultaneously realised swimming wasn’t her thing and cycling very much was, she kept to running and cycling. She then swapped her running shoes for cycling ones, making the move to road cycling, and then to track cycling where she has really started to flourish.
Not one to give up easily, Shannon is a young cyclist that relishes a challenge. She finds that if she doesn’t have something to strive towards, her training would be simply boring. The rigorous training and dieting regimes can be a challenge, but it all comes together when she strikes the right balance, and she embraces that this is her life now.
A prolific user of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; Shannon finds social media a great platform to help connect with her fans. She can keep her friends, family and followers all up to date about her training and racing while she’s away. It can be difficult to keep track of her social life during the heavy training periods, so it's a great way for her to rewind after a hard day’s work on the bike.
Shannon also admits she’s a bit of a nutter pre-race. Music wise, she prefers more calm songs that she can sing along to, before switching dramatically to something more upbeat and loud just before a race to help get her fired up. Once the headphones go on with rap blaring at full volume, there is only one thing on Shannon’s mind, and that is winning, so nobody should go looking for a pre-race interview from her.
The 2016 Rio Olympics were obviously the pinnacle of Shannon’s career so far. Becoming the first Irish female track cyclist to compete at an Olympics was a massive achievement, and she hopes that her historic exploits will encourage other young women to follow suit and compete at the highest level of international sport. She believes the opportunities are there with the support structures that only improve each year with more experience. Shannon hopes that this setup will get more girls involved from a young age, so that they have the time to hopefully develop into future Olympians. Her experience in Rio was second to none, and it’s something she will take with her throughout the rest of her life. The atmosphere at the games was electric from day one with all the athletes being on a constant high, even just thinking about it still gives her goose bumps!
Despite her successes at national and international level, Shannon still has had her setbacks. She was knocked down by a car before the UCI Track World Cup in New Zealand last year. She also had her appendix taken out three weeks before the UCI Track World Championships in London and still had the stitches in when she raced! These challenges definitely knocked her back, but Shannon is not someone who will let a setback keep her from reaching her goals. She is still learning and progressing each year which is promising. Although she knows she has a long way to go, she is an extremely determined and capable cyclist. She is no stranger to hard work, and nothing will stop her from achieving her goals. Her motto is when ‘you get knocked down you get back up’ (Sometimes literally).
Shannon’s ultimate goal is to be at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 pushing for a medal. She is still progressing day by day and knows improving takes time. She will be up against girls that have been racing in the Keirin their whole life, and this is only her third year, but that dissuade her from dreaming of Olympic victory. It's not going to be easy for the 24 year old, but with the right help and financial support around her, anything is possible. She is grateful for her coach and training group based in Melbourne, and says she is well taken care of when she is at a camp in Mallorca also.
With all her hard work in training going well, and her currently competing in European championships and World Cups around the world, Shannon feels she is going in the right direction with everything now coming together. The Tokyo games are now only 3 years away, and Shannon’s is completely dedicated and committed to making an impact in 2020, which would make all that perseverance worthwhile.