Three-medal haul for Wiggins is Britain's best for 40 years

Bradley Wiggins became Britain's most successful Olympian at a single Games for 40 years yesterday after a remarkable comeback on the cycling track. Wiggins added a bronze medal in the madison event, a perilous race over 50 kilometres of the indoor track, to the silver and gold he has won in the past week.

By achieving third place with his partner, Rob Hayles, Wiggins has matched the individual medal haul achieved at the Tokyo Games in 1964 by Mary Rand. She won bronze in the 4x100m, silver in the pentathlon and gold in the long jump.

The pair's achievements also crown a fine Olympics for British cycling, which included a gold medal for Chris Hoy last Friday.

The pair led in the early stages but soon lost the lead to the eventual winners, Australia. They appeared to have fallen out of contention altogether when Hayles, whose crash in the same event in Sydney cost a medal place, was unseated after colliding with another rider with less than half the race to go.

Hayles switched his damaged bike shortly afterwards and the pair, who had been a lap behind the leaders, rallied in the closing stages to roars from several hundred British fans and finished third with 12 points, trailing the Swiss (15) and the winners Australia (25).

Cath Cockran, Wiggins's fiancée, who was in the crowd, said: "We always knew, even when he won the first world title as a junior, that Bradley would be something special but I didn't think he would be quite that special. When Rob fell off I thought, 'Oh no. Not again.' It was like a repeat of Sydney. All credit to him for getting back."

Born in Belgium, Wiggins was brought up by his mother in Maida Vale, north London. Aged 19, he moved to France where he signed his first cycling contract and where he will return on Sunday for his next race with his team, Crédit Agricole.

He claimed his first gold last Saturday when he won the men's individual pursuit, having broken the Olympic record to reach the final the previous day. Two days later, riding in the men's team pursuit with Hayles, Paul Manning and Steve Cummings, Wiggins won a silver after being beaten by the Australian team. In his only previous Games, in Sydney, Wiggins won a bronze in the team pursuit and last year he claimed his first major title ­ the individual pursuit at the World Championships in Stuttgart.

He lives with Ms Cockran, a cyclist turned radiographer, in Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire where he also trains. Mrs Wiggins, who watched her son over the weekend, had to fly back to the UK due to a lack of accommodation.

Even if Wiggins had achieved gold yesterday, he would not have matched the best individual medal haul for a British Olympian. In the 1908 Games in London, the swimmer Henry Taylor achieved three Olympic golds in the 400m freestyle, 1,500m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay.