“I said it wasn’t a medal from a palace that I dream of when I raced my bike, that it felt like a social rating and a hierarchy that I didn’t want to involve myself in”
Olympic and world champion, Katie Archibald got into cycling after winning handicap races on a Highland Games grass track. She writes a column for Cycling Weekly each week
I have an MBE. Actually I guess “I am an MBE” is the proper wording. I don’t say the sentence often; it embarrasses me a bit. But the letters are there after my name and I have the necklace and certificate and the like.
Before being offered an MBE (in my case for services to sport) you get sent a letter asking whether you would accept such a thing were it offered. This came along after the Rio Olympics, like a bonus cheque where the currency is your social stature. I ignored the letter for a long time, fairly indifferent. This was rude.
Since I didn’t respond, the palace (or more likely someone working in a slightly less elaborate building, but one with cornices and gargoyles nonetheless) contacted an agency I’m attached to. Now a third party, a party with my email address, knew about the letter and I had to reply.
It took me a further couple of weeks to decide what that reply would be.
During that time I had dinner at my mum’s house. How she knew to pose the question remains a mystery, but she asked whether to expect my name on the New Year Honours list.
I explained the letter and that I was going to decline the offer of an offer. I said it wasn’t a medal from a palace that I dream of when I raced my bike, that it felt like a social rating and a hierarchy that I didn’t want to involve myself in.
Boy did I get a telling. “Any publicity is good publicity, is it? Get your name in the newspapers for turning down an honour, make a big show of yourself, eh? Make sure everyone else feels stupid?”
I quickly resolved to believe her: it would be disrespectful to decline. I wrote to the palace and said I would accept.
I hadn’t consulted my dad on the matter. He found out when he read my name listed in the newspaper, and sent me a text: “See you’re an MBE now. You can only sell your soul once you know. Pa x.”