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Family's joy at gold medal win
FROM the moment Steven Burke pedalled through Colne’s Alkincoats Park without his stabilisers at the age of four his family knew they had ‘a natural’.
His mum Sharon and granddad, Brian Wesson, had both competed at national level and had had their fair share of success.
And they could see young Steven was determined to progress as fast as possible - with it only taking a short time before he’d learn to ride on his own two wheels.
Tonight the 24-year-old Olympic athlete gave the performance of a lifetime, winning gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the team pursuit.
But according to his family, Steven’s first love was in fact football and it was only when he became a teenager he showed his amazing talent on a bike.
Steven’s interest in the sport was sparked when he and his brother Nathan spotted an advertisement for a new cycling team called the Eastlands Velo in Manchester.
Mum Sharon, 48, of Temple Street, Colne said: “He was about four when he learnt to ride a two-wheeler. His dad and I used to go to Alkincoats Park while he was learning to ride without stabilisers, along with his granddad.
“Steven wanted his stabilisers off so he could progress to two wheels. He didn’t have them on for long. He was a natural.
“He didn’t start competing until he was about 13 because he was more into football.
“Then he saw the advert for a new cycling club at the velodrome. But I never knew if he would take to the hobby.
“It was about six months after joining the team that he took part in his first competition.
“When he started winning, he started enjoying it even more. I think he enjoyed the success.
“When he won a national championship he really got the bug for it. He had a natural talent.”
Steven’s dad Alvin used to take the teenager to the velodrome in Manchester twice a week as he progressed through the ranks. As his skill increased, so did the number of training sessions.
Sharon, a midday assistant at Park Primary School in Colne, where Steven used to attend, said: “My husband was at the velodrome three of four times a week when Steven was taking part in competitions. Sometimes he was never away from there.
“In everything Steven has done, he has wanted to win, even from a young age. He has the winning instinct.
“He has a lot of drive and determination when it comes to competitions.
“He lives and breathes cycling and he has worked very hard to get to where he is.”
Sharon said cycling had always been a family affair for the Burke’s and Steven had always had a huge amount of support from everyone around him.
She said: “I used to ride when I was younger, and my dad has always cycled. He started riding competitively when he was 14 and he’s 74 now.
“Winning a gold is something Steven has always dreamed of.
“We are so proud of him. He was 20-years-old when he went to Beijing and got a bronze. To make a second Olympics is brilliant. We are so proud of him. It’s unbelievable.”
Between the ages of 18 and 21 Steven lived away from home, including six months in Manchester and the rest of the time training in Italy where he was taught how to progress and become an elite rider.
He then started competing in national races, when his talent was spotted by British Cycling. He has since gone on to win world titles, Steven’s parents travelled down to London on Wednesday with brother Nathan, sister Zoe, grandma and granddad Mary and Brian Wesson, and family friends, ahead of the athlete’s qualifying race on Thursday, and final today.
All of them managed to secure tickets to see him compete.
Steven will also be joined by girlfriend Claire Brooks, 25, from Leeds.
Steven’s aunt, Ellen Burke, was unable to get tickets but watched the event on television with friends at her home in Colne.
The athlete received hundreds of messages of support from friends, family, and fans.
Pupils at his former primary school held a special assembly in his honour.
“Steven knows how much people are backing him,” said Sharon. “The neighbours decorated the street before he went off to the Olympics with bunting and banners saying ‘Go for Gold’ and ‘Good Luck’. The whole country is behind him.”