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Olympic heroes celebrate again

29th December 2012, 07:30am

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London's Olympic champions are celebrating again after being rewarded for their exploits in the special New Year Honours list, with Bradley Wiggins and Ben Ainslie receiving knighthoods.

Wiggins followed his historic Tour de France triumph, the first by a British cyclist, by winning a fourth Olympic gold medal and first on the road while Ainslie became the most successful Olympic sailor of all time with his fourth successive gold.

Wiggins said: "It's quite something really. I never ever imagined that I would ever become a knight so it's an incredible honour but there's a slight element of disbelief, and it will take a while to sink in.''

Ainslie announced his Olympic retirement last month and will now concentrate on the America's Cup, which Britain has never won.

The 35-year-old said: "This is an incredible honour. When I set out Olympic sailing 20 years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen.

"I couldn't have achieved this honour without the support of all the people who have helped me throughout my career and so I hope they can also take some pride in this moment.''

All the 2012 gold medallists end the year with an honour, although seven athletes who had previously received honours, including Sir Chris Hoy, were not recognised further this time.

Along with Ainslie and Wiggins, inspirational British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford is also knighted after he once again masterminded a stunning medal haul as well as leading Team Sky to a one-two in the Tour de France.

Brailsford is renowned as a team player and admitted to being not entirely comfortable with an individual honour such as this.

He said: "I can totally understand it with Chris (Hoy) when he won his three gold medals, or with Brad, because to have done what he has done is pretty amazing.

"But I guess it does feel a little bit uncomfortable given the hard work that everyone puts in that there is an individual recognition rather than a group recognition. That is a bit of a challenge - but it is a great honour nevertheless."

A fourth knighthood goes to David Tanner, the performance director for British Rowing, who also oversaw a record medal haul as Britain's rowers won four golds and nine medals in all.

Four Olympic stars are made CBEs, including the king and queen of British athletics, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, after they lit up the Olympic Stadium.

London was the swansong for cyclist Victoria Pendleton, who added a second Olympic gold and is made a CBE after playing a trailblazing role for women sprinters on the track.

Rower Katherine Grainger receives the same honour in the year she finally made it gold with Anna Watkins in the double sculls following three successive silvers.

She said: "I am surprised and delighted to receive this new accolade, which, for me, brings 2012 to such a wonderful conclusion.

"In the last few months it has been become wonderfully apparent just how much our Olympic achievements have meant to everyone up and down the country.

"I fully appreciate this new accolade and I'd be thrilled if it helps with the efforts of everyone on Team GB to produce a meaningful legacy."

Three of Britain's double gold medallists have been awarded OBEs - dressage star Charlotte Dujardin and cycling couple Jason Kenny and Laura Trott - along with tennis' Andy Murray, who was both a gold medallist and a Grand Slam winner in 2012.

Apart from Hoy, rowers Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge, cyclists Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas and show jumper Nick Skelton, all other gold medallists receive MBEs.

Among them is long jumper Greg Rutherford, who joined Ennis and Farah in winning gold in an unforgettable Super Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium.

He said: "I am delighted and feel very proud to be receiving this great honour. This has been an incredible year for me and winning a gold medal at a home Games was a dream come true.''

Also honoured with MBEs are 51-year-old three-day eventer Mary King, who won team silver in London, and gymnast Louis Smith, now a three-time Olympic medallist.

"This year has been like no other for so many reasons," said the 23-year-old, who this month added the Strictly Come Dancing title to his Olympic gongs.

"For me it's obviously one I'll never forget and I wasn't sure it could get any better but to be awarded an MBE is the icing on the cake and without a doubt

the proudest moment of my life.''

Boxer Nicola Adams - the first woman to win a boxing gold medal in the history of the Olympics - was also awarded an MBE.

A number of coaches also receive MBEs - Malcolm Brown for triathlon, shooting's Ian Coley, equestrian performance director Will Connell, Paul Hall for gymnastics, David Howlett for sailing, boxing's Rob McCracken and Paul Thompson and Robin Williams for rowing.

The men and women who brought the Games to London and made it happen feature heavily in the honours, too, led by organising committee chair Lord Coe, who is made a Companion of Honour.

He described the list as "a wonderful end to this unique Olympic and Paralympic Year''.

He said: "It recognises the achievements of our sportsmen and women who inspired the nation.

"This year's list also recognises those behind the scenes at LOCOG for outstanding leadership and delivery of the world's largest sporting events.

"I am incredibly proud of them all and our partners who made Britain proud this summer."

Coe's deputy, Sir Keith Mills, is made a Knight Grand Cross while LOCOG chief executive Lord Deighton becomes a Knight Commander.

Other figures to receive honours include LOCOG's director of sport Debbie Jevans and London 2012 director Neale Coleman, who are both made CBEs, while communications chief Jackie Brock-Doyle becomes an OBE.

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