Peter Kennaugh received a hero’s welcome when he arrived back home in the Isle of Man the morning after he rode to victory in the team pursuit.
Around 100 fans gave him a huge cheer as he walked through the arrivals area of the Island’s airport holding his gold medal. He is the first Manx-born Olympic champion since Sidney Swann who was part of Great Britain’s rowing eights team at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.
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Among the welcoming party at the airport was Clare Christian, President of Tynwald – the Isle of Man’s parliament.
Kennaugh, 23, joined in as the crowd sang an impromptu rendition of the Island’s national anthem and then gave an emotional speech in which he expressed his thanks for the reception.
He said: “This means everything to me, to have so many people welcoming me home shows what a close-knit community we have in the Isle of Man.”
He then held his gold medal aloft and said ‘this is for you guys’ which prompted a huge cheer from the crowd that included fans of all ages. He spent an hour signing autographs and having his photo taken and passed his gold medal to fans – much to the delight of the many children who had turned up to meet their hero.
Kennaugh also revealed for the first time that an injury which forced him to abandon the Giro d’Italia almost destroyed his Olympic dreams. A niggling injury to his left hip had been causing him problems since October last year, but it worsened during the Giro and severe pain forced him to abandon the race just a few kilometres into stage 17.
With the first round of the Olympic team pursuit just 10 weeks away, Kennaugh feared that the injury could prevent him riding at the Games.
“I was at the side of the road in tears watching the peloton go by,” he said. “It was probably one of the the lowest points of my career.”
Kennaugh then had weeks of intensive physiotherapy and tried to spend as much time on the turbo trainer the injury would allow. While the rest of the team pursuit squad trained on the track, Kennaugh did turbo trainer sessions in the track centre as it was too painful for him to ride out of the saddle.
The injury finally started to settle down four or five weeks before the Games at a training camp in Majorca.
Kennaugh said he was grateful for the support of his family, physios and coaches who never lost faith in his ability to recover in time for London 2012. But he said that the injury meant that he was not in peak condition at the Games, and with Geraint Thomas also suffering with a stomach bug for the week before the team pursuit, Kennaugh believes that the gold medal quartet could have broken the 3min 50sec barrier had he and Thomas not been hit by injury and illness.
Kennaugh is draped in the Manx flag by Clare Christian, President of Tynwald –
the Isle of Man’s parliament
Fans hold up a ‘Golden Boy’ poster as Peter Kennaugh arrives at Isle of Man Airport
Peter Kennaugh signs autographs for young fans
Fans show their support for Isle of Man cycling hero Peter Kennaugh
London 2012 team pursuit gold medallist Peter Kennaugh draped in the Manx flag as he arrives at Isle of Man Airport
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