Defending a world title is never easy but para-cyclist Sophie Thornhill believes recovering from hip surgery has made her a better athlete ahead of the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.

The 23-year-old is the reigning world champion in the Tandem B sprint and kilo alongside pilot Helen Scott, but it’s been a tough year since they last stood at the top of the podium.

Thornhill got injured in September 2018 and managed the injury through last year’s World Championships but knew she needed surgery.

With this year’s championships taking place earlier because of the Tokyo Olympics, the decision was taken for her to have surgery after winning double gold on the track.

“We knew we wanted to get it done earlier rather than later and it was the right decision,” Thornhill said.

“I had the surgery in March last year, so it was about a six to seven months’ recovery to come back from that fully. We’ve had a good solid few months now and we’re in a good place where we’re really happy.

“It was a bumpy six months and probably one of the toughest six months in my career but I’m glad that I’ve come through it for the better and stronger.

“I feel like a better athlete and I’m looking forward to seeing where we’re at the World Championships ahead of Tokyo.”

Thornhill and Scott have had plenty of success on the track since they teamed up in 2013 having won gold in the kilo and sprint at the 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 editions of the World Championships.

The 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships will take place 30 January – 2 February in Milton, Canada and Thornhill is targeting more success.

But the duo are also the reigning Paralympic champions in the Tandem B kilo having clinched that title in Rio and Thornhill hopes the World Championships will set them on a path to gold in Tokyo. 

“Defending a title is always a special thing and it’s always the target,” Thornhill added.

“No matter what, no matter the build-up or the pressure of the competition, you always want to defend those titles and winning gold medals is what we’re here to do.

“Going into this World Championships, hopefully I’ll have two more medals. We’ve just got to keep working hard in the build up to Tokyo.

“There’s a long time between now and Tokyo really, there’s a good few months and we’ll just keep chipping away and doing the sessions that we know is valuable and will hopefully result in gold medals.

“I’m four years older than in Rio and just generally more experienced. I know what hopefully going into the Games environment is going to be like and to just keep on experiencing different events and different races, it all adds up.

“Hopefully that knowledge and experience is enough to put me in good stead. Our aim is to go to Tokyo and defend our Paralympic title, that’s what it’s all about and that’s what we’re there to do.

“It’s that simple and we’ve just got to make sure we’re doing everything we can and have a smooth pathway to the Games.”

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