Victoria Pendleton stepped down from her velodrome throne last night and prepared to hand over her crown to track cycling's fresh-faced new star Laura Trott.
The 20-year-old, whose victory in the women’s omnium yesterday followed the gold she won in the women’s team pursuit at the weekend, has the good looks and bubbly personality to replace Pendleton on the magazine covers and in the TV adverts, as well as blistering pace in her legs to match her team-mates achievements, possibly even exceed them.
At 31, Pendleton has two Olympic golds to her name, while Trott, who had only really dared to dream of gold in Rio de Janeiro rather than in London until being drafted into the team pursuit line-up for last year’s World Championships in Apeldoorn, has matched that feat.
The intervening 14 months from Apeldoorn have turned her into the golden girl of the Games. By claiming two golds in London, she has joined a select band of British female athletes that includes Rebecca Adlington and Kelly Holmes to win double gold in a single Olympics.
The question is where does she go from here. British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford talked about running out of superlatives to describe a “once-in-a-lifetime athlete” and added that “the sky’s the limit”.
For her part, Trott seems refreshingly bemused that the success has all happened for her so quickly and she is hopeful there is more to come.
“I’ve got many more Olympics,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to match winning two golds at a home Games. Hopefully if I keep on working I can win more in the future.”
Sir Chris Hoy was 28 before he first celebrated Olympic gold, Trott has done so eight years faster. If British Cycling continues its current trajectory, then Trott could well end up becoming Britain’s most decorated Olympian.
Omnium riders get better through experience and Trott is a world beater at the event, despite being a relative novice. In her weaker events, she will only get stronger. But the more immediate suggestion is that she now replaces Pendleton as the first dame of track cycling.
“I am definitely up for stepping into Vicky’s shoes,” she said. “I don’t want to step into Vicky’s place just yet but I am definitely up for it. Vicky is awesome and she is my idol. She has been there throughout my childhood and I want to follow in her footsteps.”
Thanks in part to Pendleton but also the set-up at British Cycling’s Mancunian base, Trott is not the only star in the making. Jess Varnish has immense potential as a sprinter, while Dani King’s progress has also been impressive alongside Trott in the team pursuit.
That Trott has got here quite so quickly is remarkable. She was born prematurely with a collapsed lung and her parents were encouraged to let her play sport in a bid to build up her lung capacity.
Her sporting journey started with trampolining but she was forced to quit that because of a rather dangerous habit of passing out mid-air.
As a family, they finally stumbled upon cycling. Trott was just eight years old and it definitely wasn’t a case of love at first sight with two-wheel machinery.
“I didn’t enjoy it to start with,” said Trott. “It was horrible. I couldn’t get a lie in.” But her outlook started to change. She added: “I got that winning feeling and I loved it. Once I started getting that winning feeling, I didn’t want to not win.”
There are dangers associated with the sport, as there were with her trampolining, and due to a problem with the acids in her stomach, she is often sick in a bucket inside the velodrome after a particularly tough ride.
It is not exactly the sort of story to make her the poster girl but it highlights her steely determination. She talks of knowing how good she is without coming across as arrogant.
Also her impatience accounts for her swift progress. “I never thought I’d make it to 2012, nobody did,” she said. “My dad said 2016 but that’s so far away.”
Her appetite to experience that winning feeling on a bigger stage helped drive her on to greater success. The good news is that, unlike other track proteges, she is unlikely to be lost to road racing, describing herself as “rubbish at it”.
The last time she took to the road for a race, she ended up with stitches in a gashed chin after a crash. The last time she took to the track, she popped the roof off the Pringle to win gold.
Laura's two golds put her among the elite
Laura Trott last night became only the third female British athlete to win two gold medals at the same Olympics. Dame Kelly Holmes was the first woman to achieve the feat with a 1500m and 800m double in Athens in 2004, before swimmer Rebecca Adlington won 400m and 800m freestyle titles four years later in 2008.