Otley’s Lizzie Armitstead opens Britain’s Olympic medal account

YORKSHIRE cyclist Lizzie Armitstead hailed the ‘best day of her life’ after putting in a blistering performance to be became the nation’s first 
medal winner with a silver in the women’s cycling road race.

The rider, from Otley, near Leeds, bore the hopes of the country on her shoulders as she battled to earn a place on the podium yesterday after a pulsating race in which she had led the field.

Screams and cheers echoed as the 23-year-old took silver at the end of the 140km race, narrowly beaten by Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos.

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On having achieved the first British podium place 
of London 2012, the day 
after Mark Cavendish missed 
out in the men’s competition,
she said: “It’s something 
very special and it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Her mother, father and grandparents watched her 
zoom over the finish line from a viewing point on The Mall, 
just metres from the 
podium where she received her medal.

Later swimmer Rebecca Adlington doubled the medal tally with a bronze in the 400m freestyle.

Carol Armitstead said she was “so proud” of her daughter, who did not get into cycling until she was 16.

“It is more than we can have hoped for.”

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Her tearful grandfather Ray Dunn added: “I was disappointed and delighted – I knew she wanted the gold. I am tearful, I am delighted.”

Her grandmother, Marjorie Dunn, who was sporting a T-shirt with “I’m Lizzie’s Grandma” emblazoned across the front, added: “A granddaughter who is an Olympian is something very, very special.”

The cyclist later tweeted a picture of her silver medal and said it was “The best day of my life!” She added: “Thank you to the thousands of people cheering who literally got me to the finish line, I’m incredibly proud of GB!

“To my friends and family who

travelled from Otley, you deserve a piece of the medal! I have so many thank yous to make!”

Her home town displayed

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Olympic flags along the High Street and scores of neighbours and friends watched the drama on television, including at The Fleece pub, whose barman, Dan Longstaffe, went to Prince Henry’s Grammar School with Lizzie.

She had taken up the sport when Team GB visited the school at the invitation of her PE teacher.

The Junction pub, meanwhile, put up a banner celebrating the achievement immediately after the race. Landlord Tony Grey said: “It’s always great to see people from Yorkshire doing well, but the fact that she’s an Otley lass makes it extra special.”

Fellow Otley-born sporting star Mike Tindall also paid tribute. The England rugby star, who is married to Olympic equestrian competitor and the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, said on Twitter: “Congratulations. Awesome effort.”

The town’s MP, Greg Mulholland, added: “Otley is massively proud of you. Celebrations tonight.”