Empty stands may have greeted Lauren Price’s Olympic triumph but the ‘insane’ reception since returning home has more than made up for that.
Price has rubbed shoulders with Prince William, received the freedom of Caerphilly and stewed over next steps with boxing supremo Eddie Hearn since winning Team GB’s 22nd and final gold of a memorable fortnight.
And her fairytale year shows no sign of slowing down, with the 27-year-old middleweight champion from Newport now crowned the inaugural Olympian of the Year at the National Lottery Awards.
A public vote saw Price beat illustrious competition from a string of Team GB’s summer heroes and she revealed seeing Adam Peaty open the floodgates provided all the inspiration she needed to follow suit.
“I remember watching Adam win our first gold from the village,” she said. “That was the realisation of ‘right, we’re here now, we’ve got a job to get done’.
“It was a little bit annoying having to wait so long myself – Karriss [Artingstall] won bronze and she boxed three times before I’d even had one fight.
“I was favourite to win gold, which was extra pressure as well, but within myself I knew I’d trained hard and I was in a good place physically and mentally.
“I was so confident going into each fight and seemed to get better as the tournament progressed. To win gold was a dream come true.
“It was insane when I got back. I just remember pulling up to 300 people waving Welsh flags, British flags, I was signing autographs, having photos.
“I hadn’t seen my nan for seven weeks and I’d never seen her move so quick – the car pulled up and she sprinted towards me.
“I’ve had letters to my house, the boxing gym – it has been unbelievable, to be honest.”
Price remains ‘on the fence’ about her future ambitions, with turning professional among the options she is exploring.
Doing so would not necessarily preclude the former Welsh international footballer defending her crown in Paris but for now at least, the former kickboxing world champion is still reflecting on the latest chapter in her incredible sporting tale.
“It tops everything in my career,” said Price, whose gold is one of 929 medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since National Lottery funding started in 1997.
“Winning gold was crazy at the time as it hadn’t sunk in but it has now.
“I remember being a child, eight years of age watching Kelly Holmes in Athens, thinking I want to win a gold medal.
“To some people it might have sounded silly but it just shows that if you believe in yourself and work hard enough, you can achieve anything.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. For more information about The National Lottery Awards visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and follow the campaign on Twitter: @LottoGoodCauses #NLAwards