Becky's on top of the world
7:00pm Sunday 24th February 2013 in Sport
ABERGAVENNY’S Becky James survived on adrenalin to win a second stunning gold medal at the 2013 Track Cycling World Championships within 24 hours in Minsk.
The 21-year-old became the first Briton to win four medals at a single World Championships with victory in the women’s keirin on the fifth and final day.
James won her maiden senior World Championships title on day four in the women’s sprint and had a fitful night’s sleep as she tried to come to terms with her triumph.
Further success followed as James claimed her second gold, to add to two bronze medals won in the opening two days of competition. She finished with the same medal haul as fourth-placed France.
“After last night, I woke up this morning and I should’ve been tired, but I wasn’t tired at all,” said James, who got “a couple of hours’ sleep’’.
“I was just trying to lie in the dark. I was just tossing and turning, replaying the day in my head and trying not to think about it and trying to get to sleep for today’s racing.
“I just thought, ‘this is the last day, get everything out’. I really did. I got every little bit out of my legs.’’ The physical toll from five days of racing, which began with team sprint bronze with 19-year-old debutante Williamson on Wednesday’s opening day and was followed by 500 metres time-trial bronze on day two, was the main indication of her success.
“I feel like it’s a complete dream apart from the pain in my legs,’’ she added. “Two gold medals!’’ James entered her third senior World Championships targeting top-eight finishes in each of her four events.
Her keirin triumph was full of class. Leading from the front, James fought off repeated attacks to cross the line first before, as she did on day four, celebrating with her grandparents, Kathleen and Ioan James.
Cuba’s Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez was second with Gong Jinjie of China third, while Germany’s Kristina Vogel crashed out.
“After the second round I was feeling it in my legs and I really struggled getting up from the back,’’ James said.
“I just thought, if I can get to the front, they’re all going to have to come round me.
“It just worked out so well. I was in so much pain, but I just pushed and pushed and I finished in the front.’’ The World Championships are taking place without two of the great female sprinters – the now-retired Victoria Pendleton and Australia’s Anna Meares, who is taking a sabbatical – with James filling the void.
James, girlfriend of Wales rugby union wing George North, won two junior world titles in 2009 and now has two senior titles. Pendleton won nine and three times won three medals at one championships, most recently in 2009, but never did she win four.
Meares won four in Melbourne last April and was challenged by an 18-year-old James at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
James won silver, but has only belatedly recovered her form after appendicitis and an Achilles’ injury which meant she was not in contention for London 2012. In hindsight, James admits missing the Games was a blessing.
“I’m reaping the benefits now,’’ said James.