Silver Medalist Lizzie Armistead only took up cycling to get out of maths, claims PE teacher
LIZZIE Armitstead, who won Britain’s first Olympic medal at London 2012, only took up cycling as a teenager at school to get out of maths lessons, her PE teacher has said.
Pete Latham, 59, who organised the British Cycling’s Olympic Talent Team visit to Prince Henry Grammar School in Lizzie’s hometown of Otley, joked how the silver medallist only signed up to give cycling a go to skip lessons.
Mr Latham said she was one of a number from her year group who put herself forward when the team came to her school and “smashed the endurance tests”.
The PE teacher, who retired this summer, told how she had inherited her talents from her parents, both of whom were also taught by Mr Latham.
“We invited pupils to come and have a go at this talent spotting by Jonny Clay, the regional British Cycling officer, and the story goes that Lizzie decided this is a great opportunity, I can also miss a maths lesson at the same time,” he said.
“She went along with quite a number of others from her year group and she stood out. She absolutely smashed the endurance tests and the sprint trials that Jonny Clay ran.
“She was by far the best performer from all the pupils that came out from the school.”
He described how Lizzie also excelled at swimming and cross country running before first getting on a bicycle aged 13 or 14.
Mr Latham was among the proud supporters in the West Yorkshire market town cheering Lizzie on yesterday as she clinched second place.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off the television yesterday,” he said.
“I kept thinking, this would be a disaster after the men’s race but everything was redeemed by Lizzie’s performance, which was phenomenal.
“What made it come together was her utter sheer determination and focus that she has.”
Mr Latham said it was unusual for a cyclist to get into the sport during early teenage years, with talent spotting taking place at increasingly early ages.
“It’s very unusual but it’s that element of luck and fortune,” he added.
“In Lizzie’s case, the other talents that she showed, the swimming and the running, meant it was something she was going to be very successful at.”
This morning, Lizzie's father told BBC Radio Leeds how his daughter had been fortunate to be there when British Cycling visited her school.
"She was in the right place at the right time. She was immensely lucky and it has changed her life," he said.
"She loves it. [The dedication and training] is not a hardship for her."
Describing the race yesterday, he added: "I never expected her to go so early. To see the effort she put in to keep that break going is impressive to say the least.
"I think the men's race heightened people's interest and they realised there was something to go and watch. It was a great day."