Suffolk's golden girl lives her dream

CYCLIST Victoria Pendleton was the pride of Suffolk yesterdayafter she won a gold medal for Great Britain.

Anthony Bond

CYCLIST Victoria Pendleton was the pride of Suffolk yesterdayafter she won a gold medal for Great Britain.

The 27-year-old, an honorary member of Mildenhall Cycling Club, claimed gold in the women's sprint event after she saw off the challenge of Australian Anna Meares in two straight races in the best-of-three heat final.

Speaking shortly after her win she said: “It doesn't feel real yet. Everything went to plan but after the success of the team I felt it might be too much to ask.

“I couldn't expect anything more - it's a dream scenario. I feel like part of the team because you have to have a medal these days!

“I feel like a completely different athlete (from Athens), I enjoy it a lot more and am lucky to have people around me to help me improve.”

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Her win is the latest in a string of Olympic successes for East Anglian athletes - fellow cyclist Ross Edgar, from Newmarket, won silver in the men's keirin with Chris Hoy while Sharon Hunt, of Great Saxham near Bury St Edmunds, claimed bronze in the team three-day-evening at the equestrian arena.

Unfortunately Colchester's Sarah Claxton, who made the 100 metres hurdles final, finished eighth in her race yesterday.

Pendleton's gold medal will no doubt help her to gloss over the heartbreak she suffered in Athens four years ago. Tipped as a medal contender at the Olympics in 2004, she finished sixth in the time trial and was knocked out in the first round of the sprint.

Last nightshe said her performance this time around was helped by sports psychologist Steve Peters, who has helped her develop strategies to cope with the pressure she feels when she takes to the track.

“I honestly don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for Steve Peters,” she said. “I've wanted this so badly. I'd beaten everyone in the field so there was a lot pressure on me to win a medal - I'm 'the golden girl of the track'. But I didn't think about the outcome, I just tried to focus on the process.

“I didn't even allow myself to think about winning or failing, I just focused on the training I'd done.'

Victoria's earliest memory of cycling was when she went youth hostelling at the age of six with her father Max, himself a keen cyclist.

At the age of nine Pendleton started grass track racing with her brother and at the age of 16 she was talent spotted by a national coach. But she decided to concentrate on her education and after completing her A-Levels she attended the University of Northumbria in Newcastle to study a Bsc (Hons) in Sport and Exercise Science.

During her time at university she trained with the British national team and in 2001 she competed in the European championships - her first experience of international competition.

Following her Olympic disappointment in 2004 she bounced back the following year to become the Sprint World Champion.

Yesterdaywas another hugely successful day for Team GB. As well as Pendleton's success Christine Ohuruogu took gold in the women's 400m final while cyclist Chris Hoy became the first Britain to win three gold medals in a Games for 100 years, beating GB's Jason Kenny in the sprint final. High jumper Germaine Mason took silver in the high jump while sailer Paul Goodison landed the Laser class.

Click here to watch Pendleton win her gold medalClick here to watch Pendleton win her gold medal