Golden girl Becky James returns

South Wales Argus: Golden girl Becky James returns Golden girl Becky James returns

DOUBLE world champion Becky James was back where her cycling dreams began yesterday when she returned to a hero’s welcome at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport.

The 21-year-old from Abergavenny is still struggling to come to terms with her stunning achievement at the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk over the past week.

Having earned bronze medals in the team sprint and 500m time-trial, James shocked even herself by winning gold in the individual sprint on Saturday and the Keirin on Sunday.

Having touched down from Belarus in the early hours of yesterday morning she was whisked to Newport to meet the national and local media at the track where it all began.

James succeeded Victoria Pendleton, the retired queen of British cycling, as sprint world champion and admits that she can’t believe how quickly her dreams have become reality. “I remember coming down here in 2008 before the Olympics,” she said, recalling her first meeting with Pendleton in Newport.

“I had a training session with Vicky on the track and was dreaming that I’d be in her shoes one day, so to be winning world titles that she won is something else.

“I’ve stepped into her shoes and experienced winning the world title and it’s the strangest thing. Someone needs to pinch me still because I can’t take it in.”

Comparisons with Pendleton are something that James is going to have to get used to in the build up to the 2016 Rio Olympics but she insists that she still has a long way to go to match her idol’s achievements.

“Vicky was such a phenomenal athlete, she won so many world titles and Olympic medals and no one can compare me to her. She’s at another level,” she said.

“It’s a great start for me but sometimes people forget I’m only 21 and I’ve got a long career ahead of me. Vicky retired in her 30s so I’ve hopefully got another ten years to go and there’s a lot more to come from me.”

Despite her modesty James has done something that was beyond Pendleton and the likes of Sir Chris Hoy by becoming the first British rider to win four medals at a single World Championships.

“I can’t believe that nobody else has done that before but I’ve created a bit of history and that’s exciting,” she added.

“If someone said to me I was going to win one medal I would have been over the moon but to come away with four is crazy.

“I didn’t expect it at all. I had a target to finish in the top eight in all my events and nobody thought I would win a medal in all my events.

“It doesn’t feel real to me at the moment. The next few weeks I just want to relax and enjoy it and take it all in.

“When I was stood on the podium I couldn’t stop smiling and I’m still smiling. I think it’s going to take a while to sink in, maybe until I go on holiday.”

One person who knows what it’s like to become an overnight sensation is James’ boyfriend and fellow Welsh sports star George North.

She says his success with the Wales rugby side has inspired her to improve on the track.

“I saw George briefly this morning before he went to training,” she said. “It’s nice that I’ll be able to enjoy myself over the next few weeks and go and see some of the Six Nations games.

“It’s great because we go through the same things as professional athletes. If I’m stressed about cycling he understands what I’m going through. His success motivates me and I think that works the other way round as well.”can compare me to her. She’s at another level,” she said.

“It’s a great start for me but sometimes people forget I’m only 21 and I’ve got a long career ahead of me. Vicky retired in her 30s so I’ve hopefully got another ten years to go and there’s a lot more to come from me.”

Despite her modesty James has done something that was beyond Pendleton and the likes of Sir Chris Hoy by becoming the first British rider to win four medals at a single World Championships.

“I can’t believe that nobody else has done that before but I’ve created a bit of history and that’s exciting,” she added.

“If someone said to me I was going to win one medal I would have been over the moon but to come away with four is crazy.

“I didn’t expect it at all. I had a target to finish in the top eight in all my events and nobody thought I would win a medal in all my events.

“It doesn’t feel real to me at the moment. The next few weeks I just want to relax and enjoy it and take it all in.

“When I was stood on the podium I couldn’t stop smiling and I’m still smiling. I think it’s going to take a while to sink in, maybe until I go on holiday.”

One person who knows what it’s like to become an overnight sensation is James’ boyfriend and fellow Welsh sports star George North.

She says his success with the Wales rugby side has inspired her to improve on the track.

“I saw George briefly this morning before he went to training,” she said. “It’s nice that I’ll be able to enjoy myself over the next few weeks and go and see some of the Six Nations games.

“It’s great because we go through the same things as professional athletes. If I’m stressed about cycling he understands what I’m going through. His success motivates me and I think that works the other way round as well.”

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