British Paralympic star Sophie Thornhill announces retirement, aged 24

Thornhill has dominated at the World Championships and took gold in the Rio Paralympics

(Image credit: Getty Images)

British Paralympic track star Sophie Thornhill has announced her retirement at 24.

Thornhill, from Poynton in Cheshire, announced on Wednesday (June 17) that she would be leaving the sport after 12 years to focus on her studies.

Partnered with pilots Helen Scott and Corrine Hall, Thornhill claimed 15 world titles and gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

Announcing her departure, Thornhill said: “My plan was always to retire after Tokyo, so when the dates changed, I had a really difficult decision to make. After a lot of thought and support, I am ready to move onto the next chapter of my life and focus my energy on another of my passions.

“Cycling has been a huge part of my life for the last twelve years and has provided me with some of the biggest highlights in my life, including becoming Paralympic Champion in 2016 and setting World Records at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.”

Thornhill joined the Great Britain Cycling Team in 2013 and started to dominate the Worlds the following year, winning the tandem sprint and kilo.

In 2016, Thornhill and Scott won gold in the tandem kilo and took bronze in the pursuit.

Thornhill said: “I have met and worked with amazing people along the journey, the most important of which is Scottie. I cannot thank her enough for the amazing memories we have made together.”

She announced that post-retirement she will begin studying history at Manchester Metropolitan University in September.

British Cycling performance director Stephen Park said: “Sophie can take pride in the fact that she was undeniably the best female tandem sprinter in the world for over six years, taking victories in differing track condition with different pilots.

“Off the bike, I’ve been impressed with the incredible maturity and composure Sophie shows, which has made her a valuable member of our Rider Representative Commission and over the years I have known her she has really found her voice which has helped with her passion for advancing para-sport.”

Thornhill’s departure from the British team comes a year out from the postponed Tokyo Paralympics, which leaves open a spot for a blind or visually impaired rider to join the squad.

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British Cycling will begin the search for a new candidate, with more information available via its website soon.

Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.

Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. 

Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.