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This is getting silly. So dominant is Britain at the Laoshan velodrome that even rowers are winning cycling golds for us now.

Chris Hoy's story is remarkable enough - taking gold in a completely new discipline after having his favoured event taken off the Olympic schedule.

But at least that was still in the same sport.

Rebecca Romero's achievement in winning individual pursuit gold four years after taking silver in the quad sculls, and only two years after first cycling round a track, must rank as one of the more remarkable stories in British sporting history.

Only one other woman has ever won Olympic medals in two completely different sports, East Germany's Roswitha Krause - and both of hers came as part of a team, a handball silver in 1976 following a freestyle relay silver in 1968.

Then again, Romero is a remarkable woman.

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Former Olympic pursuit champion Chris Boardman, now a technical advisor to the British cycling team, spotted something special about the girl from Carshalton the first time he met her.

"It was her absolute need to win a gold medal and her commitment to the process that stood out," he says.

"Rowing had given her good habits, knowing how elite training is done, but there was also something that came from inside her.

"It's the difference between wanting success and needing it. Rebecca needs it.

"There was only a tenth of a second between her and Wendy (Houvenaghel) coming into this final, but it was hard to bet against Rebecca because of her sheer need."

As the two Britons lined up on opposite sides of the wooden track, the tension was far more visible on Romero's face than her team-mate's.

First she sat down on the banked track, her legs flopped out in front of her, as the seconds ticked down to the gun.

Then, when she climbed on board her bike, she licked her lips and grimaced like someone eating stinging-nettles.

"I said to Victoria Pendleton - this feels like my worst nightmare," she admitted afterwards. "I felt like I'd been wrongly accused of murder and was about to find out if I was freed for the rest of my life - freed from the demons."

Coach Shane Sutton spurs on Rebecca Romero

Romero's obsession with winning gold was so intense that it often threatened to overwhelm her.

"I've never seen anyone who can damage themselves so much in training," says Boardman.

"It's her biggest problem, and a common mistake to make - to think that if you do more training it'll make you better.

"It might not. While one vitamin C tablet is good for you, 10 give you an ulcer. You always have to be mindful of that.

"The last week has been a rather shaky time for her - she slightly over-cooked it in training.

"They took some drastic action a week ago and took her completely out of training. All she's been doing for the last week is a little rolling on the roads.

"Luckily, she trusts her coach Dan Hunt implicitly, and if he can describe to her how resting is going to improve her performance, then she'll rest.

"She hates it, but she'll do it."

As she powered out of the starting-gate and fought her way up to top speed, Romero was almost roaring with the effort.

With four of the 12 laps gone, she was already a second up on Houvenaghel. With four to go the gap had doubled.

When she flashed across the line, lips stretched back, teeth gritted, she seemed to have no idea how clear-cut her victory was.

Only when she had stared at the scoreboard for almost a full lap did she start to celebrate - waggling a finger skywards like Mick Jagger and snatching a Union flag off a bunch of cavorting British fans perched above the back straight.

"It's been so hard I can't explain," she panted afterwards. "I was facing my demons, but I knew I had it in me.

"To have become an Olympic champion, to have medals in two sports - I'm so proud of myself."

The British national anthem has been heard so frequently at the velodrome that the organisers must be tempted to just leave it playing throughout the entire day.

There's been almost no point in detaching the British flag from the highest pole. In the five medal ceremonies so far, British riders have waved from atop the podium in four of them.

When Romero took her turn, still wearing her racing cleats and space-age skinsuit, she looked determined not to blub.

There was much biting of lip as the flag was slowly raised roofwards, much twitching of the nose.

Wendy Houvenhagel, Rebecca Romero

Eventually, as the anthem reached its sluggish crescendo, the waterworks started.

"I was never really good at any sports," she said later. "I never really thought I was good at riding bikes. It's just hard work.

"I wanted a gold. I wanted to be a champion. Now I've put down my mark to be remembered."

Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist covering a wide range of events in Beijing. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 4:12pm on 17 Aug 2008, fiji1974 wrote:

    I'm english but live in Australia. I suffered much ridicule prior to these Games about the fact that Michael Phelps himself would win more golds than Great Britain. Go the British. I supported Grant Hackett today but that's my sole concession to the Aussies.

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  • 2. At 4:45pm on 17 Aug 2008, mancsylynch wrote:

    hey if if phelps wasnt there we would be equal with the yanks

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  • 3. At 4:46pm on 17 Aug 2008, JL(SFC58,AFCB) wrote:

    All very interesting, but what are "these demons that drive Romero"

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  • 4. At 5:11pm on 17 Aug 2008, piran52 wrote:

    What an incredible weekend for Britain. Saturday was the day Great Britain really struck gold with 4 Olympic titles making a truly historic day for Team GB. With brilliant and inspiring performances from swimmers, cyclists, sculling, rowing, gymnastics and sailing. Well done all our true British Olympic heroes. We are all so so proud of all our girls and boys out in China.

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  • 5. At 5:36pm on 17 Aug 2008, Rob Olivier wrote:

    Rebecca performed outstandingly and came across as someone on the edge with her talent, perhaps with herself. I hope she is one who can stay on the rails with her acheivement and doesn't do a gazza without a parachute.

    One thing I like about her she's a driven winner, 2nd wont do. Do or die. We need a few track and field athletes in UK Athletics like Rebecca R!

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  • 6. At 5:38pm on 17 Aug 2008, Tramp wrote:

    The demons which drive Romero come from the nightmare of losing - or getting silver as it's sometimes called. She won silver in the rowing in Athens and if you want to know why that leads to demons then just check out the video of the women's quad on the rowing section of the website.

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  • 7. At 6:05pm on 17 Aug 2008, McWiesmier wrote:

    Well done Becca. What a elevation from the first time you got on the Velodrome at Manchester - I remember that. Wendy looks so relaxed and happy on the podium too. Can she come up here to the Western Isles as we are desperate for dentists!

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  • 8. At 6:10pm on 17 Aug 2008, steve9859 wrote:

    For the cyclists and the rowers, there is no such thing as winning a silver medal......just losing the gold medal. Just look at the reaction of the womens quad (which Romero used to be a part of) after their race

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  • 9. At 11:01pm on 17 Aug 2008, andymc09 wrote:

    For me Becca is a true inspiriation- She let her determination drive her, and by her own admission she want exceptional. She is an amazing person.

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  • 10. At 00:13am on 18 Aug 2008, giveashah wrote:

    Surely Rebecca Romero must be considered a truly great Olympian, to win a silver and gold in two different INDIVIDUAL sports, that is much better than swimming faster than everyone else using different strokes. The only comparable is Carl Lewis, who sprinted and did the long jump, though even then, the latter was sprint and then jump. This is rowing and cycling - i mean, one takes place on water!! Amazing!

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  • 11. At 00:33am on 18 Aug 2008, Jonners_Canada wrote:

    Great article - although factually incorrect:

    "Only one other woman has ever won Olympic medals in two completely different sports"

    - err no. How about the Canadian Clara Hughes - not only did she win medals at two different sports in three different games, but one was a Winter Olympics (speed skating) and the other a Summer Games (Road Race and Time Trial). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Hughes.

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  • 12. At 02:50am on 18 Aug 2008, hakluytbean wrote:

    Interesting article, Romero always looks very driven and seeing how hard the rowing girls took their silver I guess you can see some of the motivation.

    Just wanted to put in a word for Wendy Houvenaghel, who came up from I think 4th in the Worlds to silver this time and has also found great motivation in a career which started 6 years ago - when she was about the age Romero is today: http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/web/site/BC/gbr/OlympicGames2008/20080812_Wendy_Houvenaghel.asp

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  • 13. At 09:27am on 18 Aug 2008, Ian_the_chopper wrote:

    Re the demons within Romero I think anyone who saw the devastation in the faces of the womens quad scull team after getting another silver medal and not winning gold will understand it.

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  • 14. At 10:04am on 18 Aug 2008, braveianfran wrote:

    In the points race(cycling); when a rider breaks away from the group and rejoins it, whose lap count do they use for starting the sprints; the main group or the break away rider?

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  • 15. At 10:18am on 18 Aug 2008, Laurie_G wrote:

    I suppose I have missed the boat because all the Points Races are over but I too was very confused. When lapping the field for the 20 points who did the leader need to lap; or did she only need to catch up with the back marker?

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  • 16. At 10:26am on 18 Aug 2008, mr_medzy wrote:

    This is magical stuff but the organisers of 2012 should think about capitalising on this remarkable group of athletes further. What about a modern triathlon of rowing, cycling and sailing? Or maybe a post-modern pentathlon of the three above plus triple jump and pommel horse? The possibilities send the ozzies further down the medals table are endless.

    Congratulations to all - the opening of the premiership season barely rippled the back-pages. Glorious.

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  • 17. At 12:30pm on 18 Aug 2008, MKChris wrote:

    Indeed an incredible woman.

    Talking of switching sports, two British people have successfully switched from table tennis to tennis (which is not as easy as some may think) in the past... Fred Perry, who most know as our last Wimbledon champion, was actually World Table Tennis champion before that; and Ann Haydon-Jones, though she was never a World Table Tennis champion, was World Number One prior to playing tennis.

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  • 18. At 12:54pm on 18 Aug 2008, MEGWUMP wrote:

    To Jonners_Canada. Clara Hughes has won medals in different sports at different Games i.e. cycling in summer and skating in winter. She hasn't done two different disciplines at the Winter or Summer which is the point being made about Rebecca.

    Not trying to take anything away from Clara's achievements by making the point, she's clearly an amazing all round athlete.

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  • 19. At 5:11pm on 18 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    She should do tiddly winks next ! Imagine that: on top of the world in three sports of equal standing:

    Cycling around weird wooden track against other rich people.
    Rowing against other rich people.
    Playing tiddly winks.

    Brilliant.

    Forget Carl Lewis. Who's ever heard of running and jumping ?

    Personally I get about everywhere on a carbon fibre bike.

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  • 20. At 6:53pm on 18 Aug 2008, somersetf wrote:

    Nah, cyclings been more about the facilities than affluence of the competitors.

    The Manchester velodrome's brilliant.

    As an example, the guy who came third in the Pursuit came from Colne. Have you ever been there? Nope, I'm not surprised!!!!

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  • 21. At 7:29pm on 18 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    Nah, cyclings been more about the facilities than affluence of the competitors.

    The Manchester velodrome's brilliant.
    .............................................................

    I'll have to take your word for it - I'm sure it is a lot of fun.

    Nevertheless I stand by my cynisism with regard to Rebecca Romero's achievements: they are not comparable with those of track and field greats like Carl Lewis.

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  • 22. At 8:40pm on 18 Aug 2008, TimDCyclist wrote:

    GB's success is not about facilities alone. If this were the case, Japan, Australia and the USA would all be more successful. There are more covered velodromes in the Melbourne area than in the whole of the UK.

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  • 23. At 8:49pm on 18 Aug 2008, highthief wrote:

    I was going to mention Clara Hughes as well as an athlete who has won multiple medals in different disciplines at different Olympics - not sure if the omission is due to the blog writer's lack of knowledge on the subject or was simply poor wording.

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  • 24. At 9:05pm on 18 Aug 2008, AlbaMale wrote:

    Forget all the comparisons between competitors past and present, suffice to say "the girl done good", period.

    A recent article in one of the daily broadsheets was an interview with the man (Peter Keen) who kicked off this winning attitude in British Cycling that Dave Brailsford is putting into action. Some years ago they decided to clear out all cyclists and coaches, who did not have that winning mentality. This lead to a much better focus of funding on those that are more likely to produce the results.

    I think this attitude may produce better results from the GB athletes. Too many underperforming sprinters methinks.

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  • 25. At 11:35pm on 18 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    fearlessBamber.

    You are an arse - period.

    and I quote

    "She should do tiddly winks next ! Imagine that: on top of the world in three sports of equal standing:

    Cycling around weird wooden track against other rich people.
    Rowing against other rich people.
    Playing tiddly winks.

    Brilliant.

    Forget Carl Lewis. Who's ever heard of running and jumping ?

    Personally I get about everywhere on a carbon fibre bike."

    and then later on this very thread you call Carl Lewis a great. Post 21 in fact.

    and on the subject of tiddly winks - given your expertise I would suggest strongly you go off and tiddle your wink - I suggest that is all you are good for.

    You see - if you are going to try and wind people up at least be consistent - lest you get caught out for being the fool that you so obviously are.

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  • 26. At 08:52am on 19 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    Oh bravo welshy !!

    This:

    "Forget Carl Lewis. Who's ever heard of running and jumping !!"

    IS IRONY you collosal fool.

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  • 27. At 09:10am on 19 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Someone who compares cycling and rowing to tiddly winks calls me a fool.

    Oh I am devasted.

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  • 28. At 1:32pm on 19 Aug 2008, DrRhythm67 wrote:

    Actually fearlessBamber, given the context, it's SARCASM, not simply irony.

    Well done for diverting a thread about the collosal achievements of a remarkable woman with your negative, sniping attitude.

    And as an aside, I don't think Rebecca's ever been banned from competing or had a positive drug test result overturned, unlike Mr Lewis.

    There are people in life who will make a success of almost everything they turn their hand to through determination, application and talent.

    Well done Rebecca.

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  • 29. At 3:38pm on 19 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    This:

    "Forget Carl Lewis. Who's ever heard of running and jumping !!"

    IS IRONY: I was using the opposite meaning for humorous emphasis: no malice is contained within the statement.

    This:

    "She should do tiddly winks next ! Imagine that: on top of the world in three sports of equal standing ...."

    IS SARCASM.
    --------------------------------------
    Anyway BIG UP Christine Ohuruogu Gold medal in the 400 m !!!!

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  • 30. At 4:02pm on 19 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    "I was using the opposite meaning for humorous emphasis: no malice is contained within the statement"

    Humorous?

    Take a hint - don't take up comedy writing.



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  • 31. At 4:04pm on 19 Aug 2008, James wrote:

    The worlds most popular sport of highest standing is played by paupers then is it bamber?

    I guess Ronaldo and Blatter were right after all

    You have the nerve to criticise "rich people" rowing and cycling for taking parts in sports of a lesser standing.
    Alomst anyone can cycle, not just the rich...all you need is talent and will power. That is what RR has and what you, oh fearlessbamber lack and are so clearly envious of.

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  • 32. At 6:08pm on 19 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    The worlds most popular sport of highest standing is played by paupers then is it bamber?
    .....................................

    You make no sense. Ronaldo is from the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Blatter is not a footballer.

    I'm not knocking cycling - just the type that takes place in a velodrome. It is very much a minority sport and the amount of medals up for grabs in it is pretty funny.

    Sailing and rowing are posh minority sports. This is a self-evident-truth.

    .... and I'm not envious I'm a big fan of stars like Michael Johnson, Mike Powell and Carl Lewis. I just refuse to get all excited about a girl from Surrey who in the act of winning medals in different minority disciplines demonstrated the intrinsic lack of quality and depth in both sports simultaneously.

    However you are right in pointing out my lack of will power.

    Oh yes almost forgot: touche Welshy ! (this is SARCASM)

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  • 33. At 6:33pm on 19 Aug 2008, 1welshbloke wrote:

    Well if your beef is against minority sports (which it appears to be) - then you must be against the following being in the Olympics

    Archery • Badminton • Baseball • Basketball • Boxing • Canoeing • Cycling • Diving • Equestrian • Field hockey • Fencing •• Gymnastics • Handball • Judo • Modern pentathlon • Rowing • Sailing • Shooting • Softball • Synchronized swimming • Table tennis • Taekwondo • Tennis • Triathlon • Volleyball • Water polo • Weightlifting • Wrestling

    Football, Swimming and Athletics must be it for you then?

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  • 34. At 11:39pm on 19 Aug 2008, bamber wrote:

    Taekwondo stands out as particularly silly and I would remove that if I was the boss. The beach volley ball has a lot going for it though.

    I'm not against minority sports (I am not ratifying your list BTW) being in the olympics at all. I just think that the relative strength in depth needs to be considered when assessing the worth of gold medals in minority disciplines.

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  • 35. At 08:25am on 20 Aug 2008, MikeFay wrote:

    Rowing isn't that expensive. Annual membership of the nearest swimming club to me - £21 (it's a University owned pool, so that might be cheaper than average). Annual membership of the nearest rowing club to me - £25. And yes, that does include getting to use the boats and the gym.

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  • 36. At 1:27pm on 20 Aug 2008, Showmund wrote:

    fearlessBamber, unfortunately you seem to not know what you're talking about. Rowing is not a rich sport, membership of my club is £320 a year, which includes a gym and is about half as much as the local Esporta/Fitness First/overpriced place. If you want to learn, beginner courses are about £100 for 20+ sessions. The "rich" element you refer to seems to be a hangover from the toffs at Henley, to actually do it doesn't cost much at all.

    And as for it being a minority sport, again you could not be more wrong. There are world-class rowers and scullers from GB, France, Italy, Germany, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China, Japan, Greece, Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands and others. I'd be surprised if there's another sport in the Olympics which boasts realistic medal contenders spread so far around the globe. To have beaten them all is no mean feat.

    So, either do a little research into the sports you're having a go at, or pipe down. Adults are talking.

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  • 37. At 09:47am on 22 Aug 2008, gordonbx wrote:

    I trained with Rebecca Romero in 2000 when she was an up and coming Single Sculler.

    She is not rich. She went to a grammar school, not a posh private school. She took up rowing after looking up rowing clubs in the yellow pages.

    The reason she wins at these sports has nothing to do with privilege, it has everything to do with her being absolutely bonkers when it comes to training.

    She used to race our rowing eight in her single scull and would be completely distraught when she couldn't beat us. She has always been an amazing example of just how far you can push your body. My memory of that training came back to me when I saw her lining up for the final, and I just knew there was no way she would lose.

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  • 38. At 12:25pm on 27 Aug 2008, sportsportsport wrote:

    "I just think that the relative strength in depth needs to be considered when assessing the worth of gold medals in minority disciplines."

    so someone who has put years of training gets told afterwards, well done but your sport does not get as much publicity as athletics and swimming so it only counts for half.

    genius logic there!

    just because there isnt as big a public demand for the so called "minority disciplines" doesnt mean a thing. I personally think that it is the smaller sports that provide the most entertainment (usain bolt aside) in the olympics.

    and yes there is a stereotype of rowing and sailing being posh and for rich people. but thankfully like most stereotypes they are completly untrue!

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  • 39. At 3:46pm on 28 Aug 2008, __cats wrote:


    I don't get it:

    People frequently talk about athletics being a "major sport" versus cycling being a "minor sport". I looked up the number of clubs of both in Britain and they are both about 1400.

    How many athletes do you know? How many cyclists do you know?

    OK, I concede there are not that many velodromes in the country, but this doesn't mean there are a lot of people below the best competing to be there.

    It is my belief that a top cyclist has has many competitors if not more than any given athlete.

    And the money aspect? Come-on, you could win local races on a modest machine before you would get sponsored - the cost of these is not beyond anyone (second hand bikes are pitifully cheap). High level budding athletes also get sponsored in a similar way, once they reach a certain level.

    The only aspect that puts cycling "below" athletics is TV coverage and the fact it has a historical root in the Olympics that predates invention of the bicycle.

    So Rebecca Romera - a very big well done. You and all the cyclists have put up performances that are every bit as worthy as athletics or any other sport.

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