Mountain Biking: Annie Last can be first one day
Briton finishes eighth on Olympic debut but future looks bright for 21-year-old and her sport
Annie Last did not finish first – or anywhere close to it – in the women's BMX event, the Olympics' penultimate bike race yesterday. Nonetheless, in a discipline in which Britain have not fielded a participant since 2000, Last's eighth place on the Hadleigh Farm circuit represents an important breakthrough: Britain's first top-10 finish in the event.
Early in the race, Last was involved in a break of four riders, alongside Julie Bresset of France, Georgia Gould of the US and defending Olympic champion Sylvia Spitz. The move went from the gun and although the lone Briton faded mid-race, with Bresset claiming the gold ahead of the vastly more experienced Spitz and Gould, Last's determination to take the event by the scruff of its neck made for a memorable Olympic debut.
"I wanted a clean start and a good run at it, and that went to plan," said Last, a keen horse-rider who only started bike racing aged 10 thanks to a bet with her brother.
The 21-year-old's performance was even more notable as it came on an exceptionally arduous 3.5-mile circuit. Perhaps appropriately given that the land is owned by the Salvation Army, the circuit's most difficult section – a stomach-churning jump on a narrow woodland circuit – is named The Leap of Faith.
Rather than divine inspiration, though, Last said she had been spurred on by the relentless series of triumphs for British cycling on the track and road throughout this Olympics, from Sir Chris Hoy clinching his sixth gold to Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins' time-trial victory.
"It's great being in such a successful team where we can claim so many medals," she said. And if British Cycling has yet to hit the heights in mountain biking, it is worth remembering that track racing was once barely a blip on the radar of GB sport. Last's eighth place could be the start of something much bigger in the years to come.
Aaron Hernandez: American Football in the dock as NFL star player's murderous double life is revealed
Chelsea vs Manchester United: Why Blues are the least popular team in the league
Chelsea vs Manchester United combined XI: Thibaut Courtois or David De Gea? Juan Mata or Willian? Who makes our team?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Where are the tickets for the fight?
Chelsea transfer news: Jose Mourinho plays down news signings Nathan and Yoshinori Muto but talks up Ruben Loftus-Cheek
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling