Pewsey ice queen Shelley Rudman has sent her thanks to the people of Wiltshire after they cheered her to the Skeleton World Championship.
The 31-year-old became the first British woman to clinch the global crown in Switzerland early on Friday morning, cheered on by her four-year-old daughter Ella and her fiancé Kristan Bromley.
She said: “I had so much support from Wiltshire which is great – again, loads of messages from friends I went to primary and secondary school, college, people I worked with in the area.
“I really couldn’t believe how many people got in contact and I really appreciate all the support and messages everyone sent me.
“Ella was there on the first day shouting her little heart out for me to do well on the start line which made me smile, and then she was there at the finish for a big congratulatory hug.”
She was speaking from Sochi in Russia where she had flown on Friday to prepare for the final round of the World Cup competition next weekend.
“I'll definitely be heading back to Pewsey for a few drinks at the end of the season,” she said.
Her parents Jack and Josie, of North Street, Pewsey, got up early to watch their daughter compete live on Eurosport and kept in close touch via text messages Mrs Rudman said: “I’m absolutely delighted, she’s done it. It was a welcome surprise because you never know what’s going to happen until the final run and she was struck down with a chest infection over Christmas, we’re so proud.”
“It’s a great thing for Pewsey, it’s a great thing for the whole of Wiltshire.
“She got here through hard work and determination and I think that message can be applied to anything in life.”
The 2006 Olympic silver medallist, maintained her overnight lead in St Moritz after two magnificent runs on Thursday, holding a lead of a second over America’s Noelle Pikus-Pace, with British compatriot Lizzy Yarnold in third.
There to cheer her on was Pewsey councillor and Wiltshire Council portfolio holder for sport and leisure Jerry Kunkler, who runs the Moonrakers pub,.
The pub has become known as the headquarters of the Shelley supporters club and regulars there helped raise money for kit and equipment when she was a struggling competitor.
Mr Kunkler, said: “It’s fantastic, I always watch her on Eurosports when she’s racing but to be out in Switzerland was something quite different and she appreciated me being there.
“She was the special guest at our Wiltshire and Swindon Sports Awards and so I promised that I’d go over to Switzerland to support her and I’m so glad I did.
“I got a great bit of footage and you can hear her daughter shouting ‘come on mummy’ and what makes it even more special is that her fiancé Kristan Bromley designed her sledge and the sledges of three of the top five girls.”
The whole of Pewsey has supported Shelley since she was a young athlete struggling to fund herself.
Among those early supporters was retired policeman Colin Harris, who kayaked along the Kennet and Avon Canal from Pewsey Wharf to Pulteney in 2005 to raise funds so that Shelley could enrol with the British Olympic team.
He said: “I wasn’t surprised that she won because she considers St Moritz her home track so, if she was going to win anywhere, it was going to be there.
“The World Champion-ships is the one she wanted and now she’s got it. Everybody that’s spoken to me about it since has said to me ‘hasn’t she done well?’ ”
The former Pewsey Vale pupil’s rise to success is an inspiration to aspiring athletes and her old school is planning a celebratory assembly to mark her achievement.
Shelley’s former geography teacher, Peter Seward, said: “We are very proud.
“We have some students on a ski trip in France at the moment so perhaps they’re our future stars.
“One of our retired members of staff Peter Hussey claims that he spotted Shelley’s talent because he took her on a ski trip where they did some sledging.
“I wasn’t surprised that she won because I’m a keen sports fan and I have followed her progress over the years but it’s great – now we can look forward to the Winter Olympics.”