Students pose questions to Victoria Pendleton

Due to BBC commitments Olympic champion cyclist Victoria Pendleton was unable to attend Wilmslow's Olympic homecoming parade on Wednesday, 31st October.

However, the double Olympic gold medallist managed to make a flying visit to Wilmslow High School yesterday before rushing back to London for her Strictly Come Dancing rehearsals.

Victoria was greeted by the Mayor of Cheshire East Councillor George Walton and presented with a Victoria Pendleton Way street sign. It has not yet been decided where Victoria Pendleton Way will be but at some time in the near future a road will be named after the Olympic and World champion.

Cllr George Walton told Victoria "I am absolutely delighted to announce that as the Mayor of Cheshire East I will be formally proposing that you Victoria be appointed a freeman of the Borough, this is the highest accolade the Council can bestow on any of its citizens and I can think of no more worthy recipient."

The proposal is expected to be ratified at a meeting of the full Council on Thursday 13th December.

Following the presentation Victoria answered questions from the pupils, which she described as "better questions than I get asked by a lot of journalists" and posed for photographs before dashing off to catch her train to London.

Speaking after the visit, Assistant Headteacher Mark Vincent commented "Victoria's brief visit presented our students (and staff) with a fantastic opportunity to meet an inspirational Olympic role model; she didn't disappoint. Victoria spoke passionately about her varied experiences and fully engaged every person in the room.... whatever their age!"

Below are the questions Victoria was asked by the pupils and the answers she gave.

When did you start racing?

I started racing when I was 9 years old. My dad had me on the back of the tandem when I was 6 and I had blocks so I could reach the pedals as I had little legs. I got my first racing bike at age 9 but it wasn't until I was talent spotted at 16 that I actually tried out for the national team. Then I still delayed it further because I went to university first before becoming a full time member of the team at 22. So, quite late in age really - so it just goes to show you don't have to get in to it straight away.

How do you find the motivation to carry on when you have a bad day?

"We actually aren't really allowed to use the word motivation, motivation is a word that kind of suggests that it's your choosing so we actually prefer to use the word commitment. Motivation is not a word we're allowed to describe how we feel or our general approach to training so we say commitment.

When you represent Great Britain you will always be committed to what you do, it's your job, you have to do it. For me personally one of the most powerful things I used when I was having a bad day was to think if I don't go out in the rain there will be another girl in another country who will and they'll probably beat me when we come up against the line. So I always used that as motivation - if I don't do it someone else will and they'll beat me, so that was my main drive.

What's your favourite memories?

Winning a gold medal at London. I think it was the one thing I was most determined to achieve and the one I perhaps felt would have the worst to lose. It would have been the greatest thing to achieve but it would have been the hardest thing to let slip through my fingers. So sat on the podium listening to the national anthem in London was a dream come true.

Has cycling always been your ambition?

No, cycling wasn't always my ambition. I was always cycling competitively as a hobby but I also enjoyed lots of other sports. I used to play hockey for my local town, from 16 to 19. I used to like cross country running and athletics. I even did the shot put one year - not really the right build!

I used to have my own kayak, I was an adventure scout, I liked climbing, I liked orienteering. I liked everything that's outdoors so it wasn't like I knew that this was my ambition I just wanted to be really really good at something and cycling gave me that opportunity to be good at something.

How did it feel when you were standing on the podium at the Olympics?

Very emotional. I almost could well up talking about it now. I think because of the hours, not just hours, not just years, it's like decades of hard work has gone in to that one moment and when it finally comes to realisation that it's happened it's difficult to express how much it means. All the sacrifices you make, all the good times, the hard times, the injuries, everything you've worked through just seems insignificant. A very proud moment.

When did you first ride on the velodrome?

The first time I rode on the velodrome was when I was talent spotted. I was 16 when I got on Manchester Velodrome. It felt like a fairground ride.

How did you feel when you got partnered with Brendan?

Surprised actually. I thought because he's one of the taller guys on Strictly I didn't think I'd get him because there are a lot of girls who are taller than me. I never thought for one minute I'd be paired up with Brendan but it's all good.

What's the best and worst part of training?

The best part of training by far is on the velodrome when you're doing motor paced efforts. You've got a motorbike on the track in front of you and you basically follow the wheel and it allows you to go faster than you can go by yourself. Much faster. Maybe 75 km an hour or more, 78 maybe on good days so you're pedalling at 200 revs a minute. So much fun, everything is a blur, a massive adrenaline rush.

The toughest part of training was doing intervals, if any of you are lucky enough to try intervals you'll know why. It makes you feel a bit peaky to say the least. Make sure you have your lunch 3 hours before.

How much time did you spend training?

Probably about 24 to 26 hours a week. Less than an average job in terms of 9 to 5 but you can't possibly train all day. You need to have an hour off in the middle to get food. On the longest days six hours training.

When you got disqualified how did you feel and what gave you the drive to carry on?

You have to accept that some things just don't go your way sometimes in life. Despite your greatest efforts to get there things that you could never imagine crop up. The unexpected.

For me having a partner made it very easy to deal with. Jess is 10 years younger than me, quite new to the sport, she was sat on the chair next to me and there was nothing I could have done other than just say it's just a bike race.

It doesn't mean you didn't work hard for it, I worked hard for it, you worked hard for it, you did a great job but you have to just concentrate on the next competition. It was easy for me because almost a mothering instinct came out, I said Jess there'll be more races, there'll be loads more Olympics for you and I'm going to race tomorrow. So it was kind of easy to get over because we have to think ahead in that situation because looking back doesn't help.

How does it feel being an Olympic athlete?

I feel very proud and very honoured to have been given the opportunity to be an Olympic athlete. It's not something I ever thought was possible. When I applied for university on my personal statement I wrote that my ambition was to represent Great Britain. Just to represent, not to be a world Champion, not to be an Olympic champion because I thought representing was an honour itself. So to be an Olympic champion is the best thing in the world. I feel so proud.

How much did the crowd help when you were racing?

It was amazing. It was the noisiest arena because it's enclosed. It's likes an amphitheatre the velodrome, so the noise really bounds inside and it's deafening. Literary you couldn't hear yourself think. You know when you listen to music really loud and the bass makes your chest vibrate because the music is so loud - that's what the cheering felt like. You could feel it going right through your body.

Victoria Pendleton, Wilmslow High School


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Steph Sankey
Friday 2nd November 2012 at 9:20 am
My daughter was one of the children who managed to meet Victoria in person, and ask her some of the above questions (in fact, she is in one the photos too!!) and she was utterly over the moon to be able to attend this event - well done WHS for securing such a fab visitor!!!