By Tom Reynolds
ANNIE Last insists her Olympic debut will certainly not be her final Games appearance after producing an impressive breakthrough on the world stage at London 2012.
Last, who finished eighth on Saturday, was the first female mountain bike rider to represent GB on the Olympic stage since Sydney in 2000 and it was certainly worth the wait.
Far from being overawed by her first taste of the Greatest Show on Earth, the 21-year-old took the Hadleigh Farm course by the scruff of the neck.
The Great Longstone ace roared out of the blocks to establish herself in the lead group, enjoying an early lap of honour in the first of six circuits.
By her own admission, Last paid for that early exertion but she was adamant post-race that her tactics were spot on and that her future is bright.
Having deferred a degree in medicine to pursue her Olympic dream, there were suggestions that she might dig out the textbooks post-London but Last insists otherwise.
“This is definitely my event going forward,” she said.
“I am 21 and I see myself as a developing athlete.
“In the years to come, I believe I can move forward, ride faster and get better results. I love what I do and it is want to continue doing.
“At the minute, this is what I am going to continue doing – I can see that I have got a lot of things that I can progress on and as long as I can see that I can go faster and enjoy it then I’ll continue.
“I’ll take it each season as it comes in terms of my degree.
“I was pleased with my performance because I just wanted to get the best out of myself.
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“The race went to plan because I wanted to get a good start and I did that and then in the last two laps I slipped back a bit but I got everything out of myself.
“I rode the race as I wanted to ride it and I am pleased.”
In mountain biking terms – 23-year-old gold medallist Julie Bresset aside – Last is a relative baby of the sport, a fact that made her eighth-place finish all the more impressive.
40-year-old German veteran Sabine Spitz took silver while 32-year-old American Georgia Gould won bronze.
And with that in mind Last – who is forced to train with the GB men’s squad due to a dearth of female talent – believes her future is a bright one.
“Other than the winner Julie Bresset the other riders are quite a bit older so it is a sport for experienced riders,” added Last.
“I think I can improve on little bits everywhere.
“The qualification for the Games were very difficult and I had to work really hard just to qualify. I guess not having other GB women to train with perhaps doesn’t make it harder but it makes it a bit less easy.”
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