Becky James survived on adrenalin to win a second gold medal in 24 hours at the 2013 Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk and cap a stellar showing from Great Britain.
Britain defied a London 2012 hangover to finish top of the medal table with five golds and James was the undoubted star.
The 21-year-old from Abergavenny 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.
She had won her maiden senior World Championship 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 the two bronze medals she won in the opening two days of competition. James 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. My room-mate, Vicky Williamson, she was racing today as well. 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.
“I just thought ‘this is the last day, get everything out’. 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 debutant Williamson on Wednesday’s opening day and was followed by 500m time-trial bronze on day two, was an indication of her success.
“I feel like it’s a complete dream apart from the pain in my legs,” added James. “Two gold medals!”
Her Keirin triumph was full of class. Leading from the front in the event which begins behind a motorised Derny bike, James fought off repeated attacks to cross the line first before celebrating with her grandparents Kathleen and Ioan James.
Cuba’s Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez was second with Gong Jinjie of China third. 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.”
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.
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.
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.
As well as James’ double, Britain ended the first World Championships on the road to the Rio 2016 Olympics with gold medals in the team pursuit for Laura Trott, Dani King and Elinor Barker as well as Jason Kenny in the Keirin and Simon Yates in the points race.
Olympic champion Trott had to settle for silver in defence of her omnium title as American London 2012 runner-up Sarah Hammer won her second gold. Hammer had a five-point overnight lead, which she increased to six before the last of six disciplines, the 500m time-trial.
Trott said: “I normally leave it to the 500m. I came here hoping I wouldn’t do that. The points race let me down again. She beat me by seven places in the points race and overall by four.”
Britain’s Simon Yates and Owain Doull were 11th in the Madison, won by France’s Vivien Brisse and Morgan Kneisky. German Stefan Botticher won the men’s sprint.