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Romero's tale of two world titles

Rebecca Romero
Rebecca Romero has now been a world champion in two sports

By Ollie Williams

Two years ago, Rebecca Romero was expecting to watch the Beijing Games from the comfort of her sofa.

Now she finds herself one of the main contenders for Olympic gold this summer.

Romero sailed past American rival Sarah Hammer to win the women's 3000m individual pursuit at cycling's World Championships in Manchester this week.

The victory earned her a second world championship in three years - the twist being that the first came in the vastly different sport of rowing.

If she qualifies for the Beijing Games and reaches the podium, Romero will become the first British woman to earn medals in two different summer Olympic sports.

Back in 2005 she had become a rowing world champion as part of the GB women's quadruple scull, a year after her crew won Olympic silver at the Athens Games.

Having then taken time away from the sport to recover from a back injury, she decided did not want to return, and was planning a career in marketing.

I left rowing as a world champion to go into a new sport as an unknown, but I am here for myself and believe in myself

Rebecca Romero
"I wanted to go down the pub, do everything everyone else does," she says.

At that point the phone rang. British Cycling wanted to know if she was interested in giving the sport a go.

Romero, who had picked up a bike as part of her rowing training but nothing more, took the opportunity.

Since that moment in April 2006, the 28-year-old's rise through the cycling ranks has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The woman who, on first entering a velodrome, said she could not understand how cyclists did not fall off the sides, ended up winning her first competitive race at the British Time Trial Championships months later.

Less than a year after taking up cycling she was named in the GB squad for the 2007 World Championships - to her own surprise - and brought home a silver medal from Majorca.

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Romero takes track pursuit gold

Now, having gone one better and claimed gold in Manchester, Romero is intent on seeing Beijing from a saddle, not a sofa.

"I put myself out there," she says. "I left the sport of rowing as a world champion to go into a new sport as an unknown.

"But at the end of the day I am here for myself and believe in myself."

Romero appears to need barely any time to go from novice to elite level, whatever the sport.

At the age of 17 she decided to try rowing when her family moved to live by the Thames.

Within eight months of finding a rowing club in the phone book, she was named in the British team for the Junior World Championships.

By 2001, she had earned a berth in the senior GB squad, competing in each World Championships leading up to the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

There the women's quadruple scull were edged out by an experienced German crew, but Romero and team-mates returned a year later to avenge that defeat at the World Championships.

Rebecca Romero (right) with Frances Houghton
Romero (right) won Olympic silver in rowing at Athens in 2004
Romero left the sport of rowing as a world champion with an Olympic silver medal, but she insists she was only an "average" athlete at school, unable to run or jump.

Try telling that to Sarah Hammer. The US cycling star was beaten comfortably into second place in Manchester.

Romero was disappointed by her start to 2008, but put that behind her with victory over Hammer in February's World Cup event, in Denmark.

With her silky smooth, unflinching performance in Manchester, she demonstrated she is now in the form of her life.

The British Olympic Association has told the newly crowned world champion that, should she earn a cycling medal in Beijing, she will become the first British female summer Olympian to do so in two different sports.

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Replay: Team pursuit gold for GB

Just two years into her new career she has all but matched the achievement of another sporting great, John Surtees MBE.

He won world championships in two different motor racing disciplines - Grand Prix motorcycling and Formula One - in the 1950s and 60s.

Off the track, Romero's priority is now moving house from Lane End, in Buckinghamshire, to Manchester, to be closer to the velodrome.

British Cycling, bearing rowing's loss in mind, will be keen to keep her close at hand.

She has already mentioned trying beach volleyball for 2012.

We think she was joking.

see also
Romero takes track pursuit gold
27 Mar 08 |  Cycling
World Cycling - day two photos
27 Mar 08 |  Cycling
Britain claim triple track gold
27 Mar 08 |  Cycling
Britain win sculls silver
22 Aug 04 |  Rowing
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB
Cycling on the BBC
02 Oct 07 |  Cycling
Liam Killeen's mountain bike guide
02 Mar 06 |  Get Involved

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