By Elizabeth Hufton
There's no doubt about it: 2008 has been a great year for Nicole Cooke. But despite finishing the year as Olympic and World Champion – something no other cyclist has achieved in the same year – when asked how it went Cooke hesitates. "Do you mean the whole year, or just the second part?"
This has been a year of two halves for Cooke. In mid-2007 she was already a dominant figure in women's road cycling, at the age of just 24. Then followed the first major hiccup of her career: a knee injury which prevented her from competing at the World Championships and held her in second place in the World Cup. It wasn't a promising start to the 12 months preceding Beijing. "This has been a fantastic year," she says, "but it didn't start off great with my injury. It was difficult to get going again and I had a slow spring."
The long recovery period proved to be the sternest test yet of Cooke's deep-rooted passion for cycling. "I failed to stay motivated," she says. "I really wasn't enjoying cycling: the pain and the uncertainty of when it would be fixed. I was off my schedule and knew I had a lot of work to do.
"There were a lot of doubts in my mind. I wondered why I was still cycling. I thought maybe it was time to move on. But it was when I thought of leaving cycling that I was able to pull myself back from the brink."
Read the full news feature with Nicole Cooke.