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Red Walters on Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, we explored the challenges black athletes have overcome and still face today in professional and grassroots sport. Science in Sport athlete, Red Walters tells his story on his experiences within cycling.

Tackling diversity in British Cycling
As a black athlete in a white dominated sport (his mother is from Grenada), it’s only natural that Walters would become a role model for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) riders. His awareness of diversity, particularly within British Cycling, is something that has evolved with age and experience.

“Diversity wasn’t really something I thought about too much. And then after the whole George Floyd thing it was almost like an epiphany. It opened my eyes to the wider problem, but also within cycling, how there really isn’t the diversity that you would expect from the overall population, and why is that and what can we do to change that.”

Back in June 2019, Andy Edwards, a member of London club, the Kingston Wheelers, published a comprehensive report that looked into the diversity of cycling, or lack thereof. Backed by British Cycling, the report found that “more people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds seem to be taking up cycling as a sport, but not necessarily joining cycling clubs.” It’s an issue that could illicit outrage and indignation in some, but as Walters spoke more about the issue, he is realistic and rational in his assessment.

“I think it’s an incredibly complex problem and it needs not only a multi-pronged approach, but also just needs time. I heard someone say that cultural changes can take, like, 20 years or something. I think this is a cultural shift and it will just take time and the main thing is grassroots, which has improved a huge amount.”

“There’s a handful of clubs, in London especially, that have been set-up to promote diversity and make people feel more welcome. I don’t think [racism] is necessarily the main reason why a black person wouldn’t start cycling, I think it’s more about the image and how they portray a cyclist to be and if they’ve only ever seen media with white cyclists, that’s not something that they would picture themselves doing. It starts with a trickle. You might have like one in ten, and two in ten, and then all of a sudden it just snowballs from there.”

Determination is Infinite
Receive an email from Walters and it’ll be signed-off Determination is Infinite, words that were accidentally acquired long before he began cycling. As a slogan, it’s not yet displayed proud enough to reinforce his brand, as all good slogans do, but for Walters they’ve become words to live by.

“There’s actually a funny story behind it. Way back before I started cycling, my sister had some art homework and she asked me to help her with some phrases. So, I wrote five or so phrases down and the first one that came to my mind was ‘determination is infinite’. And as I got into cycling I thought, I quite like that, I’m going to keep it. But it does reflect my sort of philosophy for the sport. One thing I always used to say to myself in a race or if I’m doing effort, and this was sort of what connected the two dots for me, is could you possibly do one watt more if your life depended on it? Or just a fraction more? Usually your answer is yeah, of course, like that’s a tiny bit more. And then you just repeat that, can you do this again and again and again? It’s a philosophy that I try and bring everywhere, really. The mind can do anything, it’s just pushing yourself to do it.”

How he became an SiS ambassador
Walters has been an SiS ambassador since July 2020. It was the perfect marriage given that SiS fuels have been his go-to supplements since he began racing.

“I’ve been working with SIS for a year and a few months. Funnily enough, I’ve been using Rego pretty much since I started cycling, and the gels actually. Although I do find it funny. I looked at one of really old videos the other day and I’d be having like one regular gel every 45-minutes. Now the amount of carbs I have an hour is like three times what I used to have, and no wonder I used to bonk and not finish races.”

“Compared to other sponsors SiS have been quite different. Someone mentioned my name to SiS and it just went from there. They were really interested in helping someone and helping support diversity and they got in touch and we’ve just built our relationship since then. Obviously, I was super keen and I already used SiS a lot, so I’m just super grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to actually work with them.”

Written By

Red Walters