Why wasn't I allowed to compete at Commonwealth Games? asks Derry cyclist Marcus Christie

Disappointed Derry cyclist Marcus Christie believes he’s owed an explanation after his Commonwealth Games dreams were dashed by a shock omission from the NI team competing in Birmingham.

By Michael Wilson
Friday, 5th August 2022, 11:41 am
Updated Friday, 5th August 2022, 11:45 am
Bready time trial specialist Marcus Christie was devastated to miss out on selection for TeamNI at this week's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Bready time trial specialist Marcus Christie was devastated to miss out on selection for TeamNI at this week's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Christie, recognised as one of Ireland top time trialists, cut a frustrated spectator this week as the NI team took part in the TT, road race and mountain bike disciplines while the 31-year-old Bready rider - who has twice smashed four-time Olympian David McCann’s Irish 25 mile TT record over the past 18 months - sat at home with little or no explanation for his non-selection.

Christie’s misery was compounded when two of the Northern Irish team, JB Murphy and Lydia Boylan, were forced to withdraw by injury prior to the Games yet no replacements were called up to the originally eight strong NI Cycling team.

“It has been a bit of a disaster for me,” admitted Christie, who has been riding with Banbridge C.C. this season, “I’ve been trying to find out the reasons for not making the team over the last month because I don’t really understand it.

“It has been around six weeks since I was informed I wasn’t selected via a generic email one Friday afternoon. It was as simple as ‘You haven’t been selected’ and I was surprised. There was a right of appeal which I tried to use but they came back and said my case didn’t warrant an appeal which was another big disappointment.

“I tried contacting the various bodies involved in the selection process for clarification and because I was ready and willing to travel after the team lost two riders but heard nothing back. There doesn’t seem to be any logic, especially not replacing the injured riders.”

Christie, who was part of Ireland’s Road World Championships team in Belgium back in September 2021, finished seventh at the last Commonwealth Games in Australia and had set his sights on challenging for a medal this time out given his form over the last two years, form which included that fantastic 45:45 to beat McCann’s 13 year-old Irish record. The local rider also claimed a bronze medal behind Nicolas Roche and Ryan Mullan at last year’s National Championship and regularly went under the 50-minute Commonwealth requirement mark.

“It feels like the goalposts have been constantly moving because I really smashed the qualification criteria so I can’t explain what I am not in the team,” reflected Christie.

“If you look at the criteria, the first point for consideration is medal potential and the next is ‘Top 8’ potential. I have already been seventh in a Commonwealth Games without being fully prepared on a course that didn’t suit me. I’m going much better now than I was in 2018.

“I smashed all the criteria they set to make the team. If you read my facebook page, there are a lot of very knowledgeable cyclists completely perplexed as to why I didn’t make the team. My best time inside the Commonwealth qualifying period was 45min 45 seconds. That was in England at a race Cycling Ireland sent me to in order to show I was ready for the World Championships. Before that I did a 46:30 in Ballymena which broke the Irish record originally.

“I got a medal at the National Championships last year behind Mullan and Roche and those two are the calibre of rider that was going to be riding in the Commonwealths. I was only one minute behind Mullan and I was thinking if I could work on a few things like aerodynamics and stuff I hadn’t focused on at that point, I might have been able to close the gap further so I was in a good position to go.”

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“There was room for Darren and myself to both do it. If you look at the Scottish team, they had three riders doing the time trial and I think I could definitely have improved on my seventh,” he adds, “When I queried it, one reason offered was they don’t see me as being able to compete in four years time at the next Games which is bizarre logic if true. Can you imagine Jurgen Klopp sitting Mo Salah down to tell him he’s not being picked for a 2022 final because he wouldn’t be at his best in 2026!

“Or as one top coach said to me, can you imagine them saying to Bradley Wiggins in 2012, ‘Brad you could win the TT tomorrow but in four years you’ll be retired so I don’t think you’re going to start!’

“Without sounding conceited, over the last two years I have been the fastest time trialist in Northern Ireland. Back in 2018 I hadn’t had the run in performances I have had this time around and I managed seventh yet they seem to be saying I have declined since 2018. That’s frustrating.

“I’ve worked hard to get myself in what I consider the best shape possible, I’ve met all the criteria and then it’s taken away without any reason given. The very least I think I deserve is an explanation.”

The 'Journal' contacted TeamNI for comment but has not yet received a response.