JOHN Paul believes he has made big strides over the past 12 months and will be going all out for glory at the Commonwealth Games.
The 20-year-old will represent Scotland in Glasgow next month with high hopes of improving on a fourth-placed finish in Delhi four years ago.
Paul, from Lybster, Caithness, has been training in his native country since returning there following his departure from the British Cycling Academy Programme last year.
Living in Wantage at the time, the sprint cyclist decided that going back north was the right move for his career, but parents, John snr and Elaine, remain in the Oxfordshire family home.
“John would be disappointed if he was no longer thought of as an Oxfordshire man,” his mother commented.
“He spent so long here and is back whenever possible to see us.”
Paul, the 2011 junior world sprint and double European junior champion, is in the middle of a two-week training programme in Belgium.
He won a team sprint bronze in the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Mexico in February and says he is in fine shape ahead of the Games.
“I was the youngest cyclist to go to Delhi for Scotland and it was fantastic,” said Paul, who was crowned the county’s Sportsman of the Year at the Oxfordshire Sports Awards in 2011.
“I was 17 at the time and had to get a dispensation to ride there because the minimum age was 18.
“Being so young, it was just incredible. I felt privileged just to be there and learn from the other athletes.
“I remember being in the food hall and Rebecca Adlington was standing behind me and I thought ‘wow’!
“I am four years older, with four years’ more training. I have developed a lot in that time. I am in a much better place.”
Despite being recognised as one of the most talented youngsters in his sport, the road to Glasgow has not been smooth for Paul.
Last year, he was dropped from the British Cycling Academy Programme which he admits was a “setback”.
“I didn’t meet the target I was set for the flying 22 metres and was consequently dropped,” the City of Edinburgh rider said.
“I was progressing, but not fast enough. I went home, trained hard and had a personal best off the back of my own training at home which is all that I was looking for that year.
“But I am moving forward now.”