Wendy Houvenaghel with the silver medal she won in Beijing
Wendy Houvenaghel had to settle for an Olympic silver medal after losing to Rebecca Romero in Sunday's 3000m individual pursuit final.
The 33-year-old from County Londonderry had been hoping to become Northern Ireland's first female gold medallist since Mary Peters in 1972.
She was guaranteed at least a silver after qualifying for the final.
Her Great Britain team-mate Romero proved too strong and led all the way to claim a convincing victory.
Romero becomes the first British woman to win two medals in two summer Olympic sports, having won a silver in rowing in Athens four years ago.
The 28-year-old from Surrey was over three seconds quicker than Houvenaghel, who was born in Northern Ireland but represented England in the last Commonwealth Games.
Houvenaghel's achievement at the Laoshan Velodrome ended a 16-year wait since the Northern Ireland's last Olympic medal in an individual sport.
That came when boxer Wayne McCullough won silver for Ireland in Barcelona in 1992 and Houvenaghel refused to be despondent after her defeat in the final by Romero.
"I started out about two years ago with this final in mind so it has worked out perfectly from that perspective," said 34-year-old Houvenaghel.
"We had the top two medals to gain today and it was just a matter of who was better on the day and Rebecca managed to get the gold and that is great.
"I have come away with the silver and I am really proud of myself for getting that medal."
Cornwall-based Houvenaghel, who quit working as a dentist two years ago when she became a full-time cyclist, only made her first international appearance at the age of 31 and is now planning to take a well-earned rest before setting her sights on the next Olympics.
"I will probably have a few weeks off and go from there, put a plan together for perhaps the next four years towards the London Olympics," she said.
"Iam not too sure just how things are working at the moment but I have proved over the last few years that I can get to this standard within two years."
Peters remains Northern Ireland's last individual gold medal winner at an Olympics, when she won the pentathlon at the Munich Games in 1972.
"It feels great," said Houvenaghel.
"I have not looked into the history to see who has achieved what from Northern Ireland but it was an achievement in itself to get here."