Yvonne McGregor MBE

Olympic and Commonwealth medallist and world record breaking cyclist, Yvonne McGregor,
graduated with a BA (Hons) Leisure & Recreation at Ilkley College in 1983.

Yvonne McGregorAn accomplished runner who did not take up cycling until she was 30, Yvonne went on to win medals, including a Commonwealth Games gold medal at Victoria in 1994 and a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and break world records. Her British 25 mile competition record, attained in 1996, still stands.

“I was always into sport from being knee-high to a grasshopper. My brother and sisters were the same. In 1973 we all came first in our individual age groups at the Bradford Schools Cross Country but I was always the competitive one. I did cross-country and track from 12. My running was always endurance based and road racing. Doing a Leisure & Recreation degree seemed a natural progression.

I remember lecturers Peter Livesey, Les Heywood and Frank Kew and going to Bingley College for some of our classes. I was very shy at College and I probably didn’t get the best out of it as I lacked confidence. I didn’t know where I wanted my life to go but I didn’t think I would be fulfilled managing a leisure centre.

After graduation I travelled then drifted into working in the caring professions where I felt comfortable. I was a teaching assistant in a psychiatric hospital; worked with disabled kids and I also worked for Bradford Recreation Service running youth clubs.

I was always running and competing, just for enjoyment, keeping fit and as a social activity. Then I split with my boyfriend and knuckled down to some serious training and in the late 1980s I ran for England. I had dabbled in triathlons for a couple of years and got injured running so I decided to take 6 months off and just concentrate on cycling. A chance encounter in a Bradford bike shop with senior coach, George Robinson, started me training intensively and success soon followed.

I already had the engine; it was just finding the right sport. I went to my first World Championships in 1993 and won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994. That gold medal was the impetus that gave me the belief I could become world class. From then on my total focus was to be the best I could be. My road to the Sydney Olympics was a personal goal. It was just about performance.

During my training I was sometimes close to quitting. I was living hand to mouth, with no real career, but I had inner knowing. When I came 4th in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 I was 35, and I thought I had missed by last chance, but I just kept going. I was 39 when I got my medal at Sydney and bronze was gold to me. I became world champion on my home track in Manchester 6 weeks later.

I am an ordinary person, Bradford born and bred. I believe everyone can be a high achiever if they have the willingness to learn and excel. I retired from elite sport a year later. I did a Diploma in Sports Massage & Physical Training and I enjoy working with the grass roots. I have recently set up a business Full Cycle.”

Photograph by Shelagh Ward