•Dismay at team sprint disqualification all forgotten as she grabs keirin gold
•Pendleton is cheered on by 6,000 fans as she drapes the Union Flag around herself on victory lap
•Tears of previous disappointment are swapped for tears of exhilaration
•Individual sprint next week offers chance of another gold

By David Williams, Katherine Faulkner and Louise Eccles

Just 24 hours earlier, she was left sobbing when a basic error shattered her hopes of gold.

But an emotional Victoria Pendleton found redemption in the Velodrome last night, claiming the Olympic medal she had dreamt of for four years.

After the heartbreak of her effective disqualification on Thursday, one of the poster girls of London 2012 powered to a thrilling win in the keirin, to the delight of 6,000 frenzied home supporters.

She's done it! Victoria Pendleton celebrates after winning gold in the women's keirin

Wheels of fire: Victoria Pendleton flies the Union Flag after her gold medal triumph tonight

Sweet: Victoria Pendleton sends a message of love to her boyfriend Scott Gardner from the podium after securing keirin gold

There was ecstasy and relief as ‘Queen Victoria’ hugged members of her backroom team, a Union Flag draped around her shoulders.

A hug and kiss were lavished on her fiancé Scott Gardner, a sports scientist whose relationship with her has caused scandal. That was because he was on the staff of the cycling team and such liaisons were frowned on.

The fallout – which saw him quit his job – was forgotten last night as Pendleton powered home to gold.

Following her victory, she said: ‘I was searching for him desperately in the crowd, I didn’t know where he was ... I am so glad I found him.

‘I can hardly believe it, I just had to focus really hard and the crowd was fantastic, it really helped me. I didn’t look for their race, I just raced my own and showed what I have got.’

With remarkable understatement she added: ‘When it is your moment, you just have to go.’

Tears of joy: For double Olympic gold winner Pendleton, it was an emotional moment when she received her medal in front of her home crowd

Moment to treasure: Pendleton brushed off the disappointment of her team sprint disqualification to wrap up gold

The win makes the 31 year old the most successful British woman track cyclist.

Growing up in Bedfordshire, her father Max – a champion racer himself – first put her on a bike aged six.

When they went riding he would cycle far ahead forcing her to catch up. Pendleton, who has an elder sister Nicola, grew up competing with her twin brother Alex, which gave her a competitive edge.

While he was faster and better technically, he did not have her desire – honed and hardened from an early age under their father’s tutelage.

After graduating in sports science from Northumbria University, Pendleton became a full-time professional, winning her first national title in 1998.

Fourteen years later, she has said that this Olympics would be her last competition.

A champion in the Beijing Games of 2008, the charismatic, but sometimes moody, star of women’s cycling had been at fault on Thursday when she and Jess Varnish had been demoted for a technical error in the team sprint. Last night she was determined to make amends and there were no sign of nerves as the Velodrome, known as The Pringle because of its distinctive shape, became a cockpit of noise and excitement.

Last-gasp: Pendleton had snatched keirin gold by a fraction of a second ahead of Shuang Guo of China

Fight to the finish: An Omega photo finish shows just how small Pendleton's margin of victory was in the keirin

Double glory: Pendleton found redemption in the Velodrome tonight following her disqualification just 24 hours earlier. Afterwards she found a moment to embrace with fiance Scott Gardner

The keirin – in which six riders follow a motorcycle around until the speed reaches 45km an hour and are then released to race – is not Pendleton’s specialist event.

But she overtook her great rival Anna Mears of Australia and held off the Chinese rider Guo Shuang in a desperately tight finish.

Mears appeared to have sprinted too early and when Pendleton made her burst with barely two laps left the Australian was boxed in and unable to respond.

Competing in her third Olympics – she almost gave up after disappointing performances in Athens in 2004 – Pendleton has a final chance of gold next week in the individual sprint.

She and Mears are favourites to win the event which was claimed by the Briton four years ago in Beijing.

That victory brought fame and wealth and she has appeared on the front cover of dozens of magazines and in TV commercials as well as being photographed naked for a modelling shoot.

In her glittering career, she has won nine world titles – including a record-equalling six in the individual sprint – in addition now to golds in London and Beijing.

Take That’s the Greatest Day and Chariots of Fire rang out as she prepared to pick up her gold at the victory ceremony.

Pendleton formed a heart shape in front of her chest with her fingers as she waited behind the top step of the podium.

While the accredited seating areas soon emptied after the race, thousands of fans in the stands stayed waving their flags and cheering.

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