Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Sunday, 10 August 2008 14:02 UK

Cyclist takes first Olympic gold

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Video - Cooke wins first GB gold medal

The first Olympic gold medal taken in 2008 by a British athlete has been won by Welsh cyclist Nicole Cooke.

It is the 200th gold won by a Briton in Olympic history and the first time in 36 years a Welsh athlete has won one.

The 25-year-old from Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan was racing in the Women's Road Race.

She finished in a time of three hours, 32 minutes and 24 seconds. The last time a Welsh athlete took a gold medal was in 1972.

Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke took Britain's first gold medal in 2008

Speaking after the race, she said: "We did it, it was perfect. It's a dream come true.

"I want to thank all the people who have been there from the start. I have worked so hard, I am so happy."

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said: "All congratulations to Nicole for a fantastic victory and what you can't perhaps quite sense at home is just the torrential rain that was falling on Beijing - and despite those incredibly tough weather conditions, she won.

"It's a wonderful victory and a huge lift for Team GB."

Friends and family at her home town in south Wales are planning to hold a celebration in her honour at a pub in the village later on Sunday.

Cooke, who was born in Swansea, started racing seriously at 11 and her first big race was the Welsh Under-12 Cycle Cross Championships

Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke crossing the finishing line

She became youngest winner of the Cycling World Cup at the age of 20.

In 2002 she grabbed Commonwealth gold in her first season and in 2006 and 2007 won the Grande Boucle Féminine, the women's equivalent of the Tour de France.

Four years ago in Athens, she came a very creditable fifth in the women's road race and 19th in the women's road time trial.

But at the 2008 Olympics in China she claimed her first gold medal.

It was the first time since equestrian Richard Meade picked up two golds in the 1972 Games, one as a member of the three-day event team and one individual gold, that a Welsh athlete has taken Olympic gold glory.

Cooke's family and friends watched the race from their home in Wick.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan described her victory as a "fantastic achievement".

"I am so pleased for her because she had been planning this for four years since her disappointment in the Athens Games in 2004 when she was outwitted in the final attack.

"This has brought her, Wales and Britain the honour of an Olympic Gold - the greatest prize in sport.

"It has been for a very long time, if ever, since a Welsh woman has taken a gold medal," he added.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "This is another incredible achievement for one of our great sporting champions.

"Despite such dreadful weather conditions, Nicole's strength and sheer determination secured a victory in China that will be celebrated as a great moment in Welsh sporting history for many years to come."

In pictures: Gold medal celebrations
10 Aug 08 |  In Pictures
Cooke grabs first GB gold medal
10 Aug 08 |  Cycling

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