British cycling champion Lauren Bell dreamed about competing at the Commonwealth Games and the former Forres Academy pupil's fantasy becomes a reality in the London velodrome this summer
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It will be the greatest honour of Lauren Bell's cycling career when she competes for Scotland at this summer's Commonwealth Games.
The 22-year-old, who was brought up in Forres but now trains full-time in Manchester in her sport, was thrilled by the news of her selection for the 13-strong Scotland team.
The Games are held in Birmingham but the cycling takes place in London, with Bell chosen to represent Scotland in the sprint events.
"The way the Scottish team works, you could be getting the times and going really well but you might not get picked because they only have 13 spots across all the cycling, sprint and mountain bike events," she said.
"I got a phone call to say I had been selected and I was just over the moon.
"The highest level you can represent Scotland at is the Commonwealth Games. It is such an honour and such a privilege."
Bell learned of her selection a few weeks ago but was sworn to secrecy until Scottish Cycling released the news.
She was only able to tell her parents back home in Forres. "They were just buzzing to tell people but they had to try and hold it in.
"Now everyone knows, and my dad has posted a picture of me in my Scotland gear on Facebook. They are both really excited.
"They have been there for me since I first started cycling and they travelled up and down the country with me, and paid for so much stuff.
"It is nice to come home and share the honour of being selected with them. All the money and driving they have put into it, I guess I can say it has all paid off when I see where I am.
"It’s really special to share it with them.
"My parents have booked everything, the flights, the hotel and they have tickets for the Games.
"Quite a few of my pals who live near London have tickets and luckily it will be on TV so my granny, who lives in Dingwall, wouldn’t be able to travel down there but she can watch it at home."
Bell started her sporting career in athletics before switching to cycling and becoming a double British champion in 2020.
Scotland's squad also includes Olympic and world champion Katie Archibald, Paralympics gold medallist Neil Fachie and Libby Clegg, who also won gold at the Paralympics as a sprinter before switching to cycling.
Since her UK title triumphs, Bell has competed for her country in World Cup events in Glasgow and Canada, including a fourth placed finish in the team sprint in Canada.
"It’s great to see how much I’ve developed and now I’ve got the Commonwealth Games coming up, it seems back then like it was such a big dream and now I’ve been selected for the team.
"When you are younger, you are imagining what it would be like to go to the Commonwealth Games especially when we were watching it in Glasgow. So I am so excited to finally get the opportunity to do it."
Relocating from Edinburgh, where she studied at Napier University, to Manchester as a full-time athlete was a big step for Bell in 2021.
"You are living in a big city and you don’t have beaches round the corner like I did in Forres.
"But I enjoy it, there’s a lot to do in a big city and it's nice training there.
"With British Cycling you have everything at your fingertips, you can get track whenever you want, the starting gate every session if you want. There’s doctors available to you all the time so you are well looked after."
Bell trains on the track four times a week as well as regular gym sessions as part of her training for the Commonwealths and other events this year.
She is not setting her sights too high for competing at the first major Games of her career.
"I’m trying to go into it aiming to have fun and really take in the atmosphere and the experience.
"My strongest event is the 500 and I'm looking forward to the kierin as well. People can get boxed in, you can make the wrong move or something so you never know what can happen."