CRYSTAL Lane says the London 2012 Paralympics might be ‘as good as it gets’ for her cycling career.
The Retford woman got a late call up to Team GB to compete in the pursuit, time trial and road race, and told the Guardian that the experience went ‘beyond all expectations’.
Lane, 27, says she’s returning to earth after racing in front of a packed and noisy Velodrome and millions on television.
“Once you get home with your family they soon bring you back down to earth,” she said.
“But it was an amazing experience, a career highlight and hard to put into words. It went beyond all expectations.”
“The Paralympics had never got that kind of support or coverage before, and what we got in London was mostly down to the British public, they got behind us brilliantly.”
Lane went into the London games without the pressure that four years of expectation brings.
She made her international cycling debut in 2011 after progressing through a campaign to find new paralympic stars.
So London 2012 was all about giving her a taste of the biggest show on earth, and helping her to prepare for the Rio games in 2016.
“I went with no expectation on me.”
“Other athletes who trained for four years had to carry massive expectation on their shoulders, I went for the experience.”
“They did expect me to get something from the games, and ultimately I wanted to do the best I could do – I’ve been working towards it and dreaming about it for two years.”
And Lane clearly wasn’t overawed by the occasion, qualifying for the finals of the individual C5 pursuit and finishing fourth as GB team-mate Sarah Storey took gold.
“I’m pleased with my performance, it’s given me that drive to push on to Rio,” she told the Guardian.
“I was really happy to get into the pursuit finals, that’s one event I will really concentrate on going forward.”
“I had a big personal best in the morning session, so I’ve got to take positives like that and work on the negatives.”
The sports nutrition student clearly wasn’t daunted by her role as the first Team GB cyclist to step out onto the velodrome track, but admitted she had to ignore the roar generated by a partisan crowd.
“I was the first GB rider up and we weren’t really sure what it would be like.”
“We normally warm up with our headphones on, and I was doing my thing when the psycologist came and told me to take them off, that I had to hear the noise the crowd were making.”
“It spurs you on, but I spent a lot of time not listening so it didn’t throw me off my routine. My coach told me that when my name was announced the noise was amazing, but somehow I didn’t hear it until I was going round the track a few laps later.”
She followed her track success with ninth place in the C5 time trial, and sixth place in the C4-5 road race.
And once the racing was over she could take in more of the spectacle that was the London 2012 games - including a parade around the nation’s capital, roared on by rapturous crowds.
“We got the chance to meet other athletes in the dining hall, and take some inspiration from what they were doing and their achievements.”
“The parade around London was very surreal. I didn’t have much of an expectation for it, and although someone said a million people would be there, it was hard to think what that would look like.”
“I always assumed this was just normal life for the Olympic stars, but when Chris Hoy turned to me and said ‘This is big isn’t it’ it really hit home.”
“It was so nice to see how many people made the effort to come out on a Monday morning.”
“After that we went to a party and I was in a room full of my heroes, it was a surreal day.”
The next challenge for Lane will be an academic one, as she completes her masters degree at Loughborough, and then it’s all about cycling, and Rio, in the hope that it comes close to matching her London experience.
“I will train hard until February when I complete my masters, and then hopefully I’ll go full-time after that in the lead up to 2016.”
“We’re all hoping Rio will be as good as London, but this might be as good as it gets.”