Dani King looks to cap remarkable journey with Olympic gold

Dani King looks to cap remarkable journey with Olympic gold

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Great Britain endurance rider Dani King has outlined her 2012 ambitions in what would complete an extraordinary five year journey for the 21 year-old.

King, from Southampton, has experienced a remarkable 2011 that saw her, alongside Laura Trott and Wendy Houvenaghel, claiming both the world and European team pursuit championships. She also picked up team pursuit gold at the European Under-23 Championships in Portugal and finished second in the individual pursuit at the same event.

It's quite an ascent for the Horizon Fitness rider, who spent a year from the Olympic Development Programme before making her official return in 2011 following success at the National Championships.

"It's been an absolutely incredible year, I couldn't have asked for anything more," she says. "I just hope it continues now into 2012 and beyond. I've just worked so, so hard. I haven't been on the British Cycling programme for my whole cycling career and I worked really hard to get back in.

"Now I'm in I want to prove myself, stay there and be part of the team that hopefully wins gold in London."

A long-distance runner and swimmer in her youth, as well as the daughter of a two-time Winter Olympic biathlete, King had always favoured and excelled at endurance sports, hence her success in the team pursuit.

However, her initial opportunity with British Cycling came in the sprint form, something King believes it has helped her become a more complete rider.

"When I was initially picked up it was as a sprint rider," King explains. "I had always been more accustomed to endurance sports as I was a swimmer and a runner before and I had never been a sprinter. But I took that opportunity and I was open to new ideas. British Cycling are the experts and they thought I would make a good sprinter. The sprint experience has certainly helped me as a team pursuit rider."

"Each event is getting faster and faster so having the exposure to sprint cycling has really helped."

King is also in contention for the omnium event, which will make its Olympic debut in London, but she is up against close friend and teammate Trott for the coveted spot although King insists there will be no hard feelings between the two when the final decision is made as to who will represent Britain in the omnium.

"Laura and I are really close friends both on and off the bike, but at the end of the day, the person who is performing the best and has the best form leading up to the Olympics will ultimately claim that spot," she calmly states.

"My 100% commitment is to the team pursuit and my training will be focused completely on that," King adds. "So whatever form I have for the omnium, if it's good enough, it's good enough and if it's not, it's not. If I get the opportunity to compete in the omnium then I will absolutely give it my best shot."

Dani King

King in action recently at the UCI Track World Cup in Astana

Giving her ‘best’ is a quality that the ultra-determined King has in abundance. When she moved to Manchester to train with the Great Britain squad, she joined the likes of Romero, Pendleton, Lizzie Armistead and Nicole Cooke. Yet, the presence of elite, top-level rivals did not faze King. Instead, she is one of the last remaining four riders of 12 to be considered for Olympic Team Pursuit places.

"It was absolutely incredible. I went up to Manchester not on a cycling programme while they were all on the British Cycling Olympic Podium' programme so I felt like a bit of an outcast," King reveals. "But it was just amazing. All the girls got on really well and we were just getting on with what we all do best - cycling and trying to make the squad.

"Now that I'm in the final four, it's almost unbelievable, with how much I've achieved over the last 12 months. I just want to keep working hard now and push on and get into that team for the Olympics. The team hasn't been picked yet and it's still all to play for so I'm going to make sure I do everything I can to get selected."

Considering her company in Manchester, did King, even with her undoubted talent, truly believe she would be where she is now, on the brink of an Olympic place? "I definitely believed that I could do it," she responds matter-of-factly. "Why even try if you don't feel that you can make it? I've always had that mentality and from a young age, I've always wanted to be world and Olympic champion."

King draws a great deal of inspiration from fellow athletes like Kelly Holmes and cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy, but it is her parents that she reserves the most amount of praise for.

"I've always looked up to Kelly Holmes," King states. "She had knock-backs in the past, but she always got back up, did her best and it paid off in the ultimate way with two Olympic golds. She's always been a real inspiration for me. Since I've been cycling, Sir Chris Hoy is another role model I look up to. His professionalism on and off the bike is just incredible. There are lots of people I look up to in cycling, but he has to be the main one.

"But it is my parents that I really have to thank for everything I have achieved so far," she poignantly adds. "Both my mum and dad have been incredible, and dad, having come from that background and having competed in two Winter Olympics, is a real source of advice. They've always given me amazing support for everything I've wanted to do. I've always been so determined from a young age to be the best I can be, which I think is why they have been so willing to help.

"They're like my two cheerleaders. You always have ups and downs in sport and it's my parents that get me through those downs and help me in every single aspect of my life. Without them, I know I wouldn't be where I am now."

If all goes to plan this summer and King captures team pursuit, and possibly omnium, gold, she will have even more to thank her parents for.