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Hampshire Olympic cyclist Dani King talks about life after winning gold
ON August 2, 2012, a national newspaper ran a short profile addressing the question ‘who is Dani King?’ By the end of August 4, also known as Super Saturday, the world knew – she had become a multiple world-recordbreaking, Olympic gold-winning cyclist. Suddenly the then 21-year-old from Hamble-le-Rice, who won gold in the team pursuit, was in the spotlight.
She was photographed at celebrity parties with the likes of Kate Moss and JLS. She and her boyfriend Matt Rowe were followed by photographers when on holiday at the end of that month. The same newspaper that ran the short profile on her carried the ‘pap’ photographs.
She was in a glossy magazine, invited to take part in TV shows and sent freebies, such as gold Hunter Wellington boots.
And she was made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.
But six months on, what is life like for Dani?
Has she gone from being a sportsperson to a sports personality?
The short answer is ‘no’. Day-today life for Dani has gone pretty much back to being the same, she says. Or perhaps more accurately it has gone to being similar but better.
Now she has more sponsorship deals, has joined Wiggle Honda, still gets the odd freebie – and knows what the ultimate success feels like, and has the hunger to taste it again.
“It’s amazing knowing we broke the world record. In the Olympic final we broke it for the sixth consecutive time. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Olympic scenario,”
Dani says no one was more surprised than her at the media attention she had in the wake of her Olympic success.
“We were warned about the paparazzi but I thought ‘Why would they want to take pictures but after that I thought ‘That’s it now’. When we were photographed on holiday, I couldn’t believe it.”
The attention has died down now, which Dani is glad about.
“It would be really difficult if I was always getting photographed. I’d find that quite hard to deal with. I don’t get recognised now on a day-to-day basis.”
Dani might be glad life has settled down, but she enjoyed her time in the limelight.
“It was amazing!” she enthuses.
“We were invited to Naomi Campbell’s event for Fashion Relief. I couldn’t believe I was in that company, with Kate Moss, Ronnie Wood and Vivian Westwood. It was unbelievable but I felt like I was the star of the night. They wanted to hear about my experience and loved seeing the medal.”
Although she remembers the celebrity parties, Dani says the aftermath of winning Olympic gold is a blur.
“I can really clearly remember the event but the days after roll into one because so much was going on. It was just the most amazing experience.”
Dani took part in magazine photo shoots and was invited to the filming of television shows, but she says the highlights were coming home and visiting her old school and college.
“I enjoyed that more because I could really feel how much I had affected other people and inspired children.”
She was amazed by the reception she received when she came home and saw the post box painted gold by Royal Mail in her honour.
“It was incredible!” she exclaims. “You don’t realise how much support you’ve got until moments like that.
There were hundreds of people there.”
She has been looking forward to receiving the Freedom of the Borough of Eastleigh.
“It’s a privilege and huge honour,” she says.
“Since I took up competitive cycling it’s been an ambition of mine to become Olympic and World Champion.
“Eastleigh has helped me in so many ways to achieve this goal, for which I am very grateful.
“I hope I can use my success to encourage, support and inspire a new generation of sporting people from Eastleigh to go on and achieve their own goals.”
Dani is set to inspire even more people as a member of the new Wiggle Honda women’s cycling team. It’s hoped her presence, along with the other two members of the gold-winning team pursuit team, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell, will help transform women’s road cycling, with some believing that in the wake of the Lance Armstrong drug revelations, the time for women’s road cycling is here.
Dani herself is hoping people will focus on the clean cyclists of today rather than the doping in the past.
“I’d never even dream of doping. British cycling has developed an anti-doping culture over many years. I think cycling is cleaner than ever now.”
Joining the Wiggle Honda team is one of the things that has helped stop Dani from having a big comedown after the glory and excitement of London 2012.
“They did say ‘be prepared for a downer after the Games’.
“It was hard, but I had an amazing time afterwards and then I was straight into training. Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t get time to have a downer.
“I’m really excited about racing on the road in my new road team. I’m hoping to help the team win some races and get some results for myself.
“I absolutely love the track, that’s my number one at the moment, but you never know – after this year I might fall in love with road racing.”
Whether track or road is Dani’s first love, she has certainly helped the nation to fall in love with cycling.