She’s terrified of catching a cold, has been pushing her mind and body to the limit for months, and thinks she might be in a state of shock … yet Holly Takos can’t stop smiling.
Then again, when you’re 18-years-old and have been selected to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games in the sport you love, you’ve got about a million reasons to smile.
Even sat still, the Flinders University student and Glasgow 2014 cyclist exudes an almost uncontrollable energy that makes you wonder if her next interview might have to be conducted on one of the tandem bicycles she will be riding in Glasgow.
And when Holly says she really, really loves cycling, you’re left in no doubt that she really, really means it.
“When people see what I have to do to keep up with my cycling and a combined Law degree at Flinders, they often think someone must be forcing me to do it, but it’s not true,” she said.
“Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is that I love it. People can only force you to go so far, it’s the love of the sport that gets you through the really hard stuff.”
Holly will compete in two events in Glasgow next month, the Kilo (one-kilometre time trial) and the Para-cycling tandem sprint, in which she will ride as pilot for Paralympic Champion Felicity Johnson.
Both events will take place in the Commonwealth Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
The modern cycling velodrome features steeply banked oval tracks with two 180-degree circular bends connected by two straights.
It was her introduction to the velodrome’s shiny wooden floors and curved surfaces that finally convinced Holly, who until three years ago was more fixated with laps of the swimming pool, to hang up her swimsuit for good.
“The first time I set foot on a velodrome, it was amazing. I’ve never felt anything like it and I knew it’s where I was meant to be,” she said.
“When I was younger I never imagined that I would do anything but swimming, but nothing comes close to the feeling of being at the centre of the action in a velodrome, with the crowd so close, roaring you on. It’s just incredible.”
Much as Holly loves cycling, she admits that love alone isn’t enough to cope with all the challenges she faces, and that this is when her family and support network comes into play.
She says she receives incredible help and encouragement from her coaches and fellow cyclists at the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI). It was through SASI’s Talent Search Program, which involves a rigorous physical assessment to see which sport each athlete is most suited to, that she first discovered her natural ability love for cycling.
She is the recipient of a full Flinders ONE scholarship, which helps her with equipment and travel costs and gives her full access to the Flinders ONE gym at Bedford Park, and also benefits from flexible study arrangements at Flinders, which means she can get extensions and take exams early, giving her the flexibility she needs to compete.
And the family support? Well she says they do lots of things to help her, but that mum’s cooking remains one of the best.
Asked about her life and career beyond cycling, Holly reveals another ambition, which is to use her law degree to help people less fortunate than herself.
“I love studying law at Flinders and I’m very concerned with humanitarian issues, so I think I would eventually like to work as a lawyer in that area,” she said.
“I’m still in the first year of my degree, so I don’t know exactly how that will work out, but I feel very passionate about helping people.”
Right now though, she’s focused on Glasgow – and even has her sights set on a podium finish in the Para-cycling sprint.
“If Felicity and I can ride the same times as we did at the Para-cycling Track World Championships in Mexico last year, we have a real chance of winning a medal,” she said.
“I got food poisoning at that event and wasn’t able to give it my best, so I’m really hungry for a big result at Glasgow.
“I also really want to make everyone who has supported me proud.”