Geraint Thomas, Nicole Cooke and Tom James tell us what it takes to become a champion.
Raise Your Game: How does it feel to be an Olympic champion?
Tom James: I still can't believe it. I can't associate the words Olympic champion with me. It still hasn't sunk in. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks it'll start to mean something.
In Beijing you just don't get a sense of what it means to people back home. All you see is the reaction of the crowds that watch the race. Coming back to Wales has been fantastic. It's the best experience of my life so far.
Nicole Cooke: It feels really good.
Geraint Thomas: It's unbelievable. I still can't get my head around it. It's fantastic to see how much it means to people. I won't forget it for a long time.
RYG: What does it take to become an Olympic champion?
Beijing Olympics 2008:
Gold medallist - Men's coxless four
TJ: It's taken more than ten years of my life. I've had to work intensely over the last four years, and this year has been really hard and stressful. Since being selected for the four we've had real ups and downs.
All four of us have been injured and out of the boat for up to two weeks at a time. That was awful for our preparation. We finally managed to get things together in Beijing. It's something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life.
NC: It takes a lot of dedication. It starts off as a dream. I started cycling on family holidays, just because I enjoyed it. You have to do a lot of training and all the other things, but you enjoy it.
You have to work hard if you want to become a better cyclist, a better athlete or whatever you want to do in terms of your sport. If you've got the desire to be the best you can be, then you don't mind getting up early to go training. You'll do whatever's needed to try and reach your ultimate goal.
GT: You've got to dedicate your life to it. You can't go out on the beers all the time. You need to stay at home and train. You're in your bed resting when you're not riding your bike.
For the last couple of years this is what we've all been striving for. The whole GB team are in it together. It's so special when, after all that effort and work, you finally reap the fruits of your labour, and you get what you set out to achieve.
RYG: Tom, you mentioned having some hard times along the way, what do you say to yourself in those low moments to get you through?
Beijing Olympics 2008:
Gold medallist - Women's road race
TJ: It can be quite difficult and emotional. It's something you really want and if something's stopping you, like an injury, it can be really stressful and frustrating.
It's about staying positive. I treated the injury time as a bit of a break, or an MOT midway through the season. It was actually pretty refreshing, so I came back with a new lease of life.
RYG: Tom and Geraint, how important was teamwork in producing a gold medal winning performance?
TJ: It's always vital. It's one of the most crucial aspects of rowing. It doesn't matter how you row, but if you all do it together you're going to go quick. It can be a tough environment. You've four guys who are strong minded, but you have to be able to compromise. At the same time you've been training with these guys for five or six years. You know them really well. They're your best friends.
It's a really close-knit group. Despite the age range you become really great friends. Sometimes you don't get on as well, and some days they're your best friends. When something like the Olympics happens it binds you together. We've done something that no one can ever take away from us.
GT: Teamwork is massive. You can't go out there with a weak link, or somebody that's got a different agenda. You have to be strong as a unit.
That's one of the biggest strengths of British cycling, and that's the main reason we've done so well. We're one big happy family. We thrive off each other's achievements. We've got really good team morale and it's good to be a part of.
RYG: What would your message be to young people looking to follow in your footsteps?
Beijing Olympics 2008:
Gold medallist - 3000m team pursuit
TJ: You've got to enjoy what you're doing. You're going to have tough times and that's crucial for the enjoyment of the sport. It's tough and it's a challenge, but when you get through it you feel alive. It's something you can be proud of. No matter what sport you do, that's where you get the enjoyment and satisfaction.
Sport can be a hard grind. You've got to train long hours, but there are so many rewards. You make great friends and it's a great way to live your life. There's nothing better.
NC: I'd say anything's possible. That's the first thing. I started cycling and racing when I was 11-years-old. I started off doing local races and having fun. I got up to the Welsh level, then onto British level and further on. When you've got the support of your family and people behind you it is possible to do it.
GT: Just get out there, get on your bike and enjoy yourself. When I was a kid we were travelling all over the UK to races. We used to camp out and play cricket, things like that. Whatever sport you're into, as long as you enjoy it and keep at it, there's no reason you can't achieve what you set out to.
- View images from the Welsh athletes homecoming celebrations in Cardiff Bay in our image gallery.
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