From idolising Chris Hoy to Olympic medalist, father of Callum Skinner discusses his son's 'dream Olympic Games'
THE roar from the crowd was deafening as the homecoming parade made its way along the Royal Mile.
All the Capital’s big sporting names were there as thousands of people cheered them on for their outstanding success at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Among the stars was a mesmerised 16-year-old boy who one day hoped all this would be his.
“As far as I can recall he was invited on to the bus by Sir Chris Hoy,” said Scott Reid-Skinner. “It was in recognition of Callum’s youth achievements and to inspire him on to greater things – it certainly worked.”
Callum Skinner, now a gold and silver Olympic medallist, was a pupil at James Gillespie’s and an enthusiastic track cyclist who spent most of his spare time at Meadowbank pushing himself to the limit at the velodrome.
His hero was Chris Hoy – the man who inspired him to try out the sport – and as they posed for pictures on the High Street, Callum likely day-dreamed about having his own Olympic glory.
Eight years on he became the first Scot in the 2016 Olympic Games to win gold.
Speaking to the Evening News from Rio de Janeiro, his father Scott has revealed just how much it meant for his “little boy” to have his dreams come true – and how high emotions have run in his family.
He said: “It’s bizarre, we still can’t believe everything that’s happened. Callum has been phenomenal and so has the whole experience. He is very dedicated, he trains every day. This was his dream – and now it’s come true.”
Scott, 53, who works for Scottish Enterprise, has been out in Brazil to rally on the 23-year-old, who grew up in Bruntsfield and whom he helped get into cycling.
“Callum has always been very sporty,” he said. “When he was younger he liked rugby and fencing but it wasn’t until he was 12 that we took him to the velodrome at Meadowbank and he took to track cycling like a duck to water. He would train for a few nights a week and it was clear he loved it.
“He did really well in the junior things, and when he was 17 he applied for the Olympic Development Squad. He trains in Manchester full-time now, but when he comes back to Edinburgh he still goes down for a little look at where it all started.
“Every working day I pass Meadowbank and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would lead to Olympic glory.”
Scott was joined in Brazil by Callum’s younger brother, Roy, 20, and mother Judith Crichton and her partner.
They watched as Callum scooped gold in the men’s track team sprint and then silver in the individual sprint. Skinner’s Olympic journey came to an end when he was disqualified from the keirin after entering the sprint lane when another rider was there.
“His brother and I haven’t really seen much of him since we have been in Rio as the athletes need to concentrate on their training,” said Scott.
“But I was finally able to hug my boy on Tuesday and we celebrated with a few beers.”
Scott revealed that his family was planning to host a celebratory reunion for Callum in the Capital before he jets off to Europe with his girlfriend for a “well-earned rest”.
It has been long road to success for Callum, who first took to the velodrome when Edinburgh club The Racers held taster sessions on the back of Hoy’s success in Athens in 2004. With a bike hired from the club, owing to the huge cost of buying such specialist equipment outright, he soon raced to glory and within four years had broken Hoy’s own British national 200-metre record for his age category.
Callum was presented with the inaugural Chris Hoy Trophy for the achievement and the success story continued at fast pace. But it has not always been straightforward for the athlete and his family.
As well as suffering from asthma and dyslexia, when he was 19 he had a cancer scare having found a lump in his throat.
Insisting he did not want to dwell on any “doom and gloom, Scott said: “Even though he’s amazing at what he does, as parents it’s only natural to worry.
“We thought he had lymphoma, but in the end it was only glandular fever.”
“I also remember the first time he visited Sir Chris Hoy’s velodrome in Glasgow and he broke his collarbone. Things can go wrong.”
He added: “It’s a bit scary thinking about how things might change for Callum when he gets back home.
“His performances have been amazing. People don’t see him training all the time like we do, so we knew he was fantastic – but we still can’t believe how well he has done in Rio.
“He is only 23 and this is his first Olympics – it’s absolutely phenomenal. Roy and I have been waking up to about 40 texts and Facebook messages every day. It’s great to know how much support he has.”
When Callum was just 18, he earned a selection to ride for Scotland, which marked the beginning of his achievements. But despite performing well in a string of events, he did not succeed at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in 2014. “He was left disappointed because he had his eye on a few medals. I think it was a learning curve for him, though, because it helped him deal with failure,” said Scott.
“Off the track Callum is as cool as a cucumber, nothing is ever a bother or a struggle for him. In my eyes he’s still a baby, I still see him as my little boy.”