Laura Trott became the first woman in British history to win four Olympic gold medals and it took her only four events across two Games to do so. The 24-year-old was triumphant in the omnium, adding to the Rio gold she had already won in the women’s team pursuit in defending the titles.
She led going into the final test of the multidiscipline event, the sometimes baffling blur of bewilderment that is the points race, and was never challenged. On a night that will be largely remembered for the record-breaking success of Trott and her fiance Jason Kenny, their team-mates Becky James and Katy Marchant had to settle for the role of proud footnotes. In time they will hog the limelight but they settled for silver and bronze respectively in the women’s individual sprint here. Germany’s Kristina Vogel beat the British duo in successive knockout rounds to win gold.
“To do what I did in London and to come here and do it again, honestly I cannot believe it,” Trott said. “When you see people who I idolise backing up in successive Olympics, like Sir Chris Hoy and my fiance Jason, I wondered how on earth these people do it. So for me to be able to come here and do it just makes me feel so proud.”
With so many points on offer in the final race, victory was by no means a foregone conclusion. And yet somehow it was. Trott’s performance over two days was masterful, and she is far too savvy to have blown such a big lead at the final hurdle. Her American rival, Sarah Hammer, claimed silver ahead of the Belgian Jolien D’Hoore.
“You go through ups and downs,” said Trott. “And I know the next three years are going to be just as hard as after London. You step up to the world championships the year after and you’re back to your non-Olympic kit and equipment and you get your feet slammed back on the ground, I guess. It’s a lot of hard work and I think people often forget that because Great Britain win a load of gold medals and they think: ‘Oh, it’s easy.’ It’s not easy. It’s so hard and so stressful, and right now the thought of doing it all again freaks the hell out of me. But it’s something that I would like to take on, the idea of winning six gold medals. I’m just going to enjoy the moment for now.”
This much we knew already: Trott hails from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. She suffers from a stomach condition that occasionally causes her to throw up following races and training. She lives in Cheshire with her fellow gold miner and several dogs. She loves the music of Bruce Springsteen and really loves the lactic burn that comes from racing. She once nearly started a house fire while attempting to bake a potato. She won her first race and its £2 purse at the age of eight. She thinks she might once have seen her grandmother’s ghost sitting in a chair.
We know all this because it was she who told us. An interviewer’s dream, she is prone to the kind of self-deprecating, joke-littered babble that makes for great copy. But there is also a serious, steely side: she is not inclined to suffer fools and as much as anything else – the Boss, the boyfriend, the burn – she just really loves riding her bicycle.
“I was so nervous before the start of the points race,” she said. “I thought that countries like Holland and Belgium might gang up on me, because obviously if Jolien took a lap then she’d be right up there with me. So I was a little bit nervous that they might attack me like you wouldn’t believe, but I felt in control and I felt strong out there. I’ve done so much hard work for the points race.”
After three events she had slept soundly, having taken 128 points out of 130 available. Second in the scratch race, first in the individual pursuit and the elimination race. A frantic affair of cycling fits and starts, Trott dominates The Devil Takes the Hindmost to such an extent that one could be forgiven for presuming it is not the movements of rivals she analyses through that perspex visor, but a torrential matrix-style downpour of green digital rain.
By lunchtime on day two, she was further ahead after the time trial. Returning for the afternoon session, she sat where she always sits: headphones on in the same corner of the Team GB cabin, next door to the Aussies. Her victory in the flying lap was peerless, putting her into an incredibly commanding position going into the final race. At 100 laps of 250 metres each, it was quite the victory parade. At its conclusion she was overcome with the emotion of it all and broke down in floods of tears.
Before these Games, Trott joked that she hoped Kenny would win three gold medals and earn a knighthood, so that she would become ennobled through marriage. Despite his impressive hat-trick, it is fair to say she looks a certainty to blow through Buckingham Palace under her own steam.
“It just seems mad to me, honestly,” she said. “Things like that obviously come with winning gold medals, I get that. But I just feel like that eight-year-old that started cycling because she absolutely loved it.”
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