Autograph hunters and television cameras show Laura Trott's transformation into a household name is complete
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 08 August 2012
The extent to which Laura Trott has been transformed from a quite
good cyclist from Cheshunt into a household name was today proved by the
phalanx of autograph hunters and cameras that followed her every move.
The 20-year-old double Olympic gold medallist was no longer just a cog in the super-tuned machine of Team GB's all-conquering cycling squad. Along with Sir Chris Hoy, the diminutive blonde had become one of the totems of the host nation's stellar success and, just as she hunts down opponents on the race track, she was the quarry of television interviewers and fans across the Olympic Park.
Trott, who joins a select band of British women including Rebecca Adlington and Dame Kelly Holmes to have won double golds in a single Olympics, is already being seen as the natural successor to female cycling's grande dame, Victoria Pendleton. The young pretender has already equalled the Olympic gold medal tally of her idol, who is 11 years her senior.
Today, the young woman, whose Brunhilde-style pigtails threaten to become the next much-copied cycling hairstyle after Bradley Wiggins' sideburns, was still coming to terms with her success before a baying home crowd on Tuesday night in the multi-discipline omnium event. It followed her gold with the world record-breaking pursuit team.
She said: "It still feels totally surreal for me, I still can't believe this is happening, I'm just a 20-year-old kid. I never thought I'd win a gold medal at the same Olympics as Sir Chris Hoy."
Indeed, success has come at a bewildering pace for Trott, who two years months ago was still competing in junior events and whose path to sporting endeavour - let alone glory - was under threat from her earliest moments.
Her mother, Glenda, who lives at the family home in Hertfordshire, said yesterday she had feared the worst when her daughter was delivered by Caesarean section in April 1992 and she was told Laura had a collapsed lung.
The baby spent six and a half weeks in hospital during which time Glenda and her husband Adrian were not allowed to touch Laura as she was fed through a tube.
Mrs Trott, 50, a teaching assistant, said: "To look at her riding round the track is just amazing. She's just got so much determination. I just can't believe she's there."
The cloud of Laura's difficult start in life contained the ultimately gilded lining of introducing her to cycling. Doctors said she would need to take part in sport to help regulate her breathing and boost her lung capacity and Laura began cycling at the age of eight when her mother took it up to lose weight.
A dozen years later, much of which was spent as a distant admirer of Pendleton, who now retires from the sport, Trott has reached the apogee of her sport one Olympics before even her father dared to believe she would compete.
Adrian Trott, 52, an accountant, who described himself as "exceptionally" proud, said: "I don't think it's really sunk in. Just getting selected was a bonus. We assumed that if she was going to do a Games, it would be Rio."
With pundits already placing pressure on the young woman's shoulders by predicting she will become Britain's greatest female Olympian, the future is bright but not sealed for the Hertfordshire Rocket.
Marketing experts said she is unlikely to experience the sort £20m windfall destined for Bradley Wiggins, or the £10m heading towards Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis from corporate sponsors in return for the use of their image and kudos.
Robert Harwood-Matthews, president of advertising and marketing agency TBWA\UK, said Trott's select company as double gold medallist and her guileless charm, with which she admitted to being not terribly good at two of the omnium disciplines, mean she is a valuable commodity for the future.
He said: "She's not going to become a millionaire overnight, or even probably in the next few years. She has to look long term for the financial rewards. Vicky Pendleton is the model she might look to follow - being consistently successful to the point where she's a household name, because that's where the real money starts."
All of which may not be great news for Trott's 22-year-old sister, Emma, who took the wise precaution of striking the bargain that Laura buy her a car if she won two golds.
Trott said: "I hope she's got a budget, there'll be no Ferraris, I'm telling you."
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