'Queen Elizabeth' delivers a silver service on The Mall

Not bad for someone who 'used to make up the numbers at school' as Lizzie Armitstead secures Team GB's first medal of Games

Click to follow
The Independent Online

London's regal quarter was a happier place yesterday. This, argued British cycling's performance director, David Brailsford, was silver won not gold lost. No arguments from this corner of The Mall. Elizabeth Armitstead could not have turned those wheels a nanosecond faster as she sped across the line a bike length behind Marianne Vos to deliver Britain's first medal of the Games.

No need for reproach. Armitstead hammered through the muck and spray of a filthy London day to hit the home straight with a medal guaranteed. That it turned out to be silver might have been decided on the toss of a coin. Vos, the favoured sprinter in this company, managed the fractions better to edge the day with Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya third.

"I'm still a bit shell-shocked, to be honest," Armitstead said. "The disappointment of not winning gold is starting to settle in but silver is more than I could have hoped for. I'm very happy to be a medallist and the first for Great Britain. I have replayed the sprint about 15 times but Marianne is faster than me so there is no more I could have done. I knew when she got the jump that I had let my opportunity go. Just as she jumped I was about to go for it. I should have got in there a bit quicker. But if you know about Vos you know that she is the best on most circuits."

Roger that, said Brailsford. "That was a fantastic performance. In a race like that you need guts to commit to the move. Once you commit you know you have to stick with it. That is what she is all about, a very brave competitor and she got her just reward. We know how talented she is. That is her best road performance. Every now and again you get a breakthrough. I think that will be hers.

"She is tenacious, dogged, professional and very fast. You don't win a silver medal at your home Games with a lot of pressure on you without those characteristics."

Armitstead is armed with a keen intelligence, too, feeding an audience meeting her for the first time with all sorts of juicy titbits that are guaranteed to have her sitting on a morning TV sofa any day soon.

She revealed how at an early age she committed herself to a vegetarian diet. "I can't get my head around eating a corpse. My parents forced me to eat what was on my plate till I was about 10 years old. I have been a vegetarian ever since."

And how about this from her youth as a sports junkie? "I was the girl in every school team. I was always the one that made up the numbers. They even put me in goal because they were short but I was always letting in goals. Luckily, cycling found me and I was able to start winning."