Golden man Bradley Wiggins hailed as ‘a true British hero’
HAMPTON COURT, England - The Associated Press
Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning gold medal at the 44-kilometer Men’s Individual Time Trial at the 2012 Olympic Games. Wiggins’ gold medal success comes just 10 days after winning the Tour de France title.There was no better place for Bradley Wiggins to sit than a throne.
The 32-year-old Londoner completed his coronation as one of Britain’s top sports figures by winning gold in the men’s time trial at the London Games Aug. 1, just 10 days after becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France.
It was Wiggins’ fourth Olympic gold - after three previous ones in track cycling - and gave him a British record seven over all. He had shared the mark of six medals with Steve Redgrave - although the rowing great won five golds.
After pedaling his way through a sea of flag-waving and sideburn-wearing fans toward the Hampton Court, Wiggins was ushered from the finish line toward a fitting seat - one of three thrones where the top finishers waited to see if they had won a medal. Wiggins didn’t have to sit there for more than a few seconds, as the only remaining threat - Fabian Cancellara - was out of reach of his time.
That’s not Wiggins’ type of setting anyway, so he quickly jumped back on his bike and rode down the course again to share his victory with his raucous supporters.
“We all know about the Olympic ticketing,” Wiggins said. “The great thing about cycling is it’s free to come and watch. All the real fans are out there, if you’re not lucky enough to come in and get a ticket. It was nice to go back out and roll up and down.”
Hundreds of thousands fans lined the course in south west London as Wiggins rode in the middle of a sea of British supporters. He was greeted by his wife, his two children and a deafening crowd chanting “Wiggo, Wiggo!” after crossing the finish line.
Amazing six weeks
“It’s been an amazing six weeks,” Wiggins said. “I realized on the podium, I don’t think anything is going to top that. Winning the Tour and then winning Olympic gold in London.”
Wiggins said the record number of medals wouldn’t have meant nearly as much if it had not been a gold.
“The most important statistic is number four, and not number seven,” Wiggins said. “There was only one color today and anything else would have been consolation.”
Froome, who was Wiggins’ teammate at the Tour, was taken aback by the crowd support - even though cycling is riding an unprecedented wave of popularity in the country.
“I almost expected today just to be like another stage at the Tour, with people on the side of the road,” said Froome. “But it was something different. Something I’ll never forget. They were not just cheering but screaming our names. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever experience again.”
After breaking his collarbone during last year’s Tour, Wiggins came back stronger than ever and has been nearly invincible this season.
The time trial is often called the race of truth and at the end it was the strongest rider who came out on top.
Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the cyclist in a message posted to Twitter.
Wiggins “is a true British hero. First the Tour (de France) and now Olympic Gold,” Cameron wrote.
A true hero indeed.
Musician Paul Weller says it feels “great” to have inspired an Olympian.
Wiggins is both a champion athlete and a well-known mod, a follower of the sharp-suited music and fashion movement epitomized by Weller’s former band, The Jam.
Wiggins has cited Weller as a hero, and Weller - nicknamed the “Modfather” - says it feels great to have inspired “a fellow stylist.”
Weller told the AP just before Wiggins’ Olympic victory that “it’s just nice to see an Englishman win something. But he’s great, he’s at the top of his game, isn’t he?”
Sideburns make a return
Bradley Wiggins has inspired a nation - to don sideburns.
Thousands of fans taped fake hair to their cheeks in hopes of creating a winning karma for Wiggins, who is renowned for his scraggly sideburns.
“We all love Wiggo,” said Wayne Coxon, a 39-year-old fan near finish line who had taped his own custom-made fur to his face for the occasion. “People have come from all over the country to be here.”
Two rival British tabloids, the right-wing Sun and left-wing Daily Mirror, both sought to capture the zeitgeist by turning their front pages into cut-outs of Wiggins’ facial hair.