26/02/2011 - When Matt Archibald rode in his first New Zealand track cycling nationals in 2008, he finished the event full of doubt.
The former rower, who won a medal at a national level, had chucked in his first sport of choice to have a shot at cycling.
He was part of the Academy of Sport programme in Dunedin as a result of his rowing success but former New Zealand athletics star Chris Donaldson suggested to Archibald that cycling might be his best route to sporting success.
Archibald is a freak when it comes to strength testing at the gym and it was believed his power would be suited to short bursts on the bike than the seven or so minutes it takes to complete a rowing race.
Archibald was soon selected in the Otago team to attend the 2008 track nationals in Invercargill.
He finished well down the track in all his events, wondering if giving up rowing was a wise move.
Fast forward just three years and you get a picture of just what a rapid rise he has made on the boards of the ILT velodrome.
The 24-year-old is now national champion in the 250m time trial after heading off Palmerston North's Simon van Velthooven.
When he took his baby steps into track cycling, he was told it would probably take him five years to really get results. His development has been nothing short of outstanding as he bangs loudly on the door for a spot in the national squad.
"The carrot dangling in front of me is obviously the Olympics next year," Archibald said. "There is six of sprinters in the squad and they will take four. I'm probably ranked fifth at the moment ... so I'm probably just on the fringes."
Archibald puts a great deal of his rapid rise down to a decision to shift to Invercargill last year after finishing university in Dunedin.
He now works for Cycling Southland as a development officer in between his hectic training schedule and says mixing with New Zealand's elite riders on regular basis at the ILT Velodrome has been a big boost.
Archibald is determined for more success at the elite track championships which run through to tomorrow night. He will line up in the keirin today and the men's individual and team pursuit tomorrow.
It is that team's sprint that many Southland cycling followers eyes will be fixed on. Southland have never won a the teams' sprint title but, with Eddie Dawkins, Matt Archibald and Sean Fox in the lineup, this could be the year.
The major competition will come from the powerful Auckland team.
Photo and story courtesy of The Southland Times