Lewis Oliva, the flying doc­tor

He may have left the BC Academy to be­come a doc­tor, but that didn’t stop Lewis Oliva be­ing picked for the World Track squad, and there’s plenty more to come, he tells Guy Swar­brick

Cycling Weekly - - Contents - Guy Swar­brick

ecently crowned Bri­tish keirin cham­pion Lewis Oliva is a com­mit­ted man. He did, af­ter all, spend six years work­ing on an Open Univer­sity de­gree in phi­los­o­phy be­fore be­gin­ning his cur­rent project — study­ing to be a doc­tor at Cardiff Med­i­cal School.

But as his pal­marès shows, Oliva’s com­mit­ted to more than just his stud­ies.

The 24-year-old Welsh­man joined the Bri­tish Cy­cling Academy pro­gramme straight from school, but as a gifted aca­demic he be­came the lat­est of a se­ries of rid­ers who have been forced to make a de­ci­sion be­tween sport and higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Some have tried to make a case for study­ing at a Manch­ester Univer­sity along­side their train­ing, but Bri­tish Cy­cling has been adamant that the pro­gramme is full-time or noth­ing.

Oliva, though, found his own way. “It was some­thing that has se­cretly been in the pipe­line for a num­ber of years. I ap­plied for Cardiff Med­i­cal School in 2014 — for a de­ferred en­try — and they ac­cepted me. It’s been a child­hood dream of mine and I knew that re­gard­less of how Rio went — whether it be a se­lec­tion or non-se­lec­tion — I was ready to move on and ded­i­cate my life to it.”

And so, last year Oliva re­vealed to his coaches that he had a place in Cardiff wait­ing for him, and that he would be leav­ing the Academy to take it up.

GB sprint coach Justin Grace re­calls dis­cus­sions with Oliva be­fore Rio, but it was only when the team came back that the full pic­ture emerged. “I knew that he was study­ing — he’d be do­ing pa­pers when we were away on camps, tucked away in his room — so I was well aware of that. And I knew that he was a very good stu­dent, in­cred­i­bly smart guy. As soon as he said to me that he’d al­ready been ac­cepted to med school and put it on hold and they were pre­pared to do that then, of course… what could I say?”

Oliva now rides for Welsh Cy­cling un­der the Team USN ban­ner, and while he has con­ceded his Olympic Academy place, Bri­tish Cy­cling has been suf­fi­ciently im­pressed to of­fer him a ride on Team GB for se­lected events, should he main­tain form.

When we spoke to him, Oliva was look­ing for a strong per­for­mance at last month’s Los An­ge­les World Cup to go with his Na­tional ti­tle: “I think those two will pro­vide a big plat­form for the Worlds se­lec­tions and who knows? That’s what’s driv­ing me at the minute. Worlds se­lec­tions and to ride with the GB skin­suit once again,” he said.

Open-door pol­icy

He duly im­pressed with fourth in the keirin, and ear­lier this month was picked for the Worlds team that will travel to Hong Kong in a few weeks’ time.

“GB have been re­ally good about keep­ing the door open. It’s good that the pro­gramme can show that open-door pol­icy and if you log on to the World Cup rank­ings, the high­est-ranked GB keirin rider is me, so…

“You see a lot of ath­letes based down in Cardiff, guys like Jamie Roberts and Hal­lam Amos who both play [rugby] in­ter­na­tion­ally for Wales,” he says. “Other sports seem to suc­cess­fully man­age ed­u­ca­tion and sport­ing en­deav­ours along­side — maybe I’m able to pave the way now for other guys to do the same,” he says.

“At the minute, the big goal is the Com­mon­wealth Games. Tokyo [Olympic Games 2020] is some­thing which is def­i­nitely on the horizon, but it’s too far dis­tant at the mo­ment to be fo­cus­ing en­ergy and re­sources into that.”

So far, it looks good for Oliva. As well as his keirin ti­tle — and a bronze in the sprint — the first two World Cups of the sea­son yielded a top 10 in the sprint in Glas­gow and a bronze in the keirin. That was fol­lowed by fifth in the sprint at Apel­doorn and a rel­e­ga­tion from sil­ver in the keirin fi­nal which many felt was harsh.

But with a suc­cess­ful Los An­ge­les be­hind him now as well, and with the big­gest stage in the an­nual track cal­en­dar beck­on­ing, Oliva now has the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to show Bri­tish Cy­cling that de­spite his ded­i­ca­tion to his stud­ies, his cy­cling is as im­por­tant to him as it has ever been.

Spin doc­tor: Oliva’s fo­cus for both prac­tices is unerring

Oliva at the 2015 Lon­don Revo­lu­tion

Talk­ing shop with BC soigneur Luc de Wilde

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