CHAMPION cyclist Kenta Gallagher has an agonising decision to make — whether to ride for Scotland or England at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
The under-23 British cross country champion was born in England but raised in Inverness, where he is still based. However, his coach wants him to represent the Auld Enemy.
"My coach is English, all my team-mates are English and I was born in England, so England would be good from that point of view," Mr Gallagher said.
"But I’ve lived in Scotland all my life and all my friends are Scottish. I don’t think they’d approve if I turn up for a Commonwealth Games in Scotland wearing a St George’s cross on my back!"
Born in Sheffield to an English father and Japanese mother, the family moved to Scotland when he was less than three-weeks-old and he has lived here ever since.
The 20-year-old narrowly missed out on selection for Team GB at the London Olympics. But the rising star — who has been supported by Scottish Cycling, the governing body for cycle sport in Scotland, to help him win several Scottish championships — is expected to make it to Glasgow in 2014.
Ranked 15th in the world in the under-23 age group, his funding now comes from British Cycling and he was on its Olympic Academy programme.
"Scottish Cycling have been a massive part of my development," he said. "I can’t thank them enough. But I’m with British Cycling now and my coach says I’ll be riding for England. I don’t want to let anyone down, but at the end of the day someone’s going to be upset with me."
Asked which country he would prefer to ride for, his diplomatic answer is both.
"I don’t class myself as English or Scottish, I just class myself as British," said Mr Gallagher, who is in the Great Britain team for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Austria next month.
"I’m not thinking about that so much just now because it’s still two years away and there’s a lot of goals I want to achieve before I go to the Commonwealth Games. I’m sure the time will come soon enough."
Former Commonwealth Games cyclist Roddy Riddle, who with his brother Kenny runs a bike shop in Grant Street, Merkinch, Inverness, is among the friends trying to persuade Kenta that Scotland needs him.
"I know what it means to ride for your country," he said. "My brother and I were both in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada. When you walk into that stadium for the opening ceremony, wearing the kilt, it’s total goosebumps all the way.
"It would be devastating if Kenta had to walk out in front of a home crowd with the Auld Enemy. He’s riding really well at the moment and will be one of the favourites going into 2014. So it’s a good chance for Scotland to get a gold."
Ian Drake, chief executive of British Cycling, insisted it would be Mr Gallagher’s choice.
"Kenta is completely free to compete at Glasgow 2014 for Scotland or England – the choice is his, provided he meets the selection criteria," he said.
A spokeswoman stated that funding was not affected by which of the home nations a rider competed for.
"Sir Chris Hoy and Craig McLean are products of the British Cycling system but competed for Scotland," she said. "Similarly, Mark Cavendish competed for the Isle of Man and Geraint Thomas for Wales, in Melbourne and Delhi.
"The choice a rider makes has no absolutely no bearing on a rider’s funding, nor his or her career prospects."