Leading article: Pure gold

No Olympic gold medal can ever have gone to a nicer, braver or more deserving figure than Nicole Cooke, the cyclist from the Vale of Glamorgan who fought her way through a Beijing downpour yesterday to snatch glory in the women's road race and provide Britain with its first champion of 2008.

Fifth in the same event in 2004, Cooke returned to the Olympic arena to give a performance of tremendous character, helped in no small measure by the selfless contribution of her two team-mates. Cycling now has the distinction of having produced Britain's first gold medallist in three successive Games, and Cooke's victory was a huge psychological lift for the entire British contingent.

Cooke has long been one of the unsung heroes of British sport. A past winner of World Cups, the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, she has a string of marvellous achievements to her name for which she has never really received due attention. Cycling still hasn't forgotten how she was marginalised and patronised at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award two years ago. The time has come to recognise a true great.

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