BECKY James starred as part of a new generation at the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk in a performance which provides an ominous warning for Great Britain’s rivals ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The 21-year-old from Abergavenny won two of five gold medals in Minsk as Britain topped the medal table in the first World Championships of the post-London 2012 Olympic cycle.
Britain won seven of 10 Olympic titles in Beijing and London and there is no sign of their dominance subsiding despite the baton being passed on by the established talents.
The absences of the now retired Victoria Pendleton and six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy, who is taking a sabbatical as he weighs up his future, offered an opportunity which the young group seized – and none more so than James, whose personal haul equalled that of the France team.
Victories in the women’s sprint, succeeding Pendleton as world champion, and Keirin, plus bronze medals in the 500 metres time-trial and team sprint, alongside debutant Vicky Williamson, saw James become the first Briton to win four medals at one World Championships.
“It was an incredible week,” said James. “I didn’t expect to come away with two gold medals and two bronze medals; I was aiming for top eight in each event.
“To be stood on the podium, not just on the podium, but on top of the podium is just incredible.”
James will go on holiday to Argentina before planning for next season, with the World Championships in Cali, Colombia, a target before another major goal in South America.
She is not the only one hoping to build on success in Minsk.
Three-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny may be disappointed after missing out on the world sprint and team sprint titles, but he claimed the Keirin crown Hoy won in 2012, while Simon Yates was triumphant in the points race and the team pursuit squad of Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker also won gold.
Double Olympic champion Trott had to settle for silver in the omnium and there was silver for the men’s team pursuit squad of Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Andy Tennant and Risca’s Sam Harrison, who lost by four seconds to Australia in the final.
But on the whole the World Championships were a marked success.
“This is a stepping stone towards Rio and this is a new generation of riders,” said James. “It’s such a young team. There was a really good vibe, a really good buzz. Everyone’s looking forward to just stepping on to the next worlds, on the road to Rio.”