OLYMPIC medallist Wendy Houvenaghel returned to Northern Irish soil at the weekend to take part in the Celtic Chrono event in Belfast.

Upperlands woman Houvenaghel, who has benefited from Lottery funding since starting her cycling career, claimed first place on the podium with an impressive time of 48:35. Wendy was taking part in the Elite Womens Time Trial on Sunday and only minutes after securing first place she spoke to the Mid Ulster Mail.

“It is brilliant to be home and compete in front of a home crowd. It was an honour to take up the chance to race here today and it is ideal preparation ahead of the Olympics this summer.”

Despite being seen as a track specialist, Houvenaghel put in an impressive performance in the event which took place in the grounds of Stormont Castle and the surrounding districts.

“It was an ideal opportunity to work on my endurance work ahead of a few intensive training sessions. We fly out to Spain this week and we are all looking forward to some warm weather training. You can get a lot more good work done in warmer climates and all of the team are looking forward to it.”

In conjunction with the Celtic Chrono, the National Lottery had their Hot Air Balloon in Belfast during the event.

“I think it’s great that the National Lottery’s London 2012 Hot Air Balloon has made a stop on its tour at the Stormont Estate. The National Lottery’s funding and support is crucial to me as a cyclist and without out it I would not be able to train at world class venues or be a full-time athlete performing at the level that I am.”

Despite thoroughly enjoying her victory on the Northern Irish roads, Wendy is looking forward to getting back on the track and preparing for another crack at Olympic gold.

“The Team Pursuit team are incredibly excited ahead of the Olympics but we are taking each day as it comes and we are striving to do our best and provide a gold medal winning performance in London.”

“We are all incredibly focused within the team and everyone knows the job we have on our hands. We have a superb squad and we are technically very capable of delivering.”

The Ladies Team Pursuit team are in action at the Velodrome in the London 2012 Olympic Park on the 3rd and 4th August.