BRITISH Cycling president Brian Cookson has backed Olympic medalist Steven Burke to handle the pressure of his rapid rise to fame.

The 20-year-old Colne cyclist surpassed even his own expectations when he clinched bronze in the individual pursuit, just 48 hours after being drafted into the event.

After recovering from the disappointment of failing to make the cut for the team pursuit, not only was Burke just under four seconds ahead of Russian Alexei Markov in the ride-off for bronze at the Laoshan Velodrome, his podium place came four years ahead of schedule.

And Cookson is confident he can go from strength to strength.

“Steve was one we all had in mind for 2012, so this has come early. But that’s hugh credit to him and his huge talent,” he said.

“He was brought in to ride in the team pursuit as the fifth man to give Bradley Wiggins a rest after the first round of the invidiual, which is an achievement in itself.

“But the way it went it was decided to give him a chance in the individual.

“To get a personal best in every round – without special preparation – you can’t ask more than that.

“He has shown he can rise to the big occasion.”

And Cookson, executive director for regeneration at Pendle Council, said he was delighted Burke had put the borough, and East Lancashire, on the map.

“Steve’s the first from Pendle in any sport to go to the Olympics,” he said.