'You only live once' gold medal winner Joanna Rowsell reveals how cycling gave her the confidence to confront alopecia
12:41 GMT, 6 August 2012
Joanna Rowsell was nine years old when her hair started to fall out and within two years she was almost completely bald due to alopecia areata.
Since then the 23 year old from Cheam, Surrey has lost and regained her hair three times, but her success on the cycling track has given her the confidence to face her condition and now she hopes her Olympic gold medal and world record will help other sufferers to do the same.
As part of Super Saturday's spectacular medal haul, Joanna and her teammates Laura Trott and Dani King beat the United States in the 3,000m pursuit final to take home the gold medal in front of an ecstatic velodrome crowd. Speaking to Daybreak about the experience this morning she said: 'I've always had the opinion that you only live once, I'm not going to let having alopecia hold me back.'
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Joanna celebrates a gold medal and world record with teammates Dani King and Laura Trott
Joanna, who has talked before about the chronic shyness that came with losing her hair, added: 'It has been great being a cyclist, it has given me so much more confidence in myself.
'Being an Olympic medal winner can't help but give you even more confidence and I think if I can help raise awareness too that will help.
'I was over the moon to win. The crowd were going crazy and I was just trying to soak up the atmosphere.
'It is a once in a lifetime opportunity: a home games, a gold medal AND a world record.'
'I've been so excited eve since it was announced that it was going to be in London.
'The crowd and their support definitely helped spur us on.'
The GB track cycling trio in action as they broke the world record for the second time in two hours in the women's team pursuit
Joanna doesn't wear a wig for competing, and chose to leave her wig off while collecting the medal and celebrating with the team around the velodrome.
Last month the young sports star caused a stir after winning at the test event and collecting her gold medal without a wig. She spoke to the Daily Mail about wearing one for the Olympics.
She said: 'People really commented on me going on the podium at the test event with no wig but it wasn’t something I really thought about.
Joanna Rowsell in one of her wigs for her TV appearance today
'Now I will think about it if we
win in London because it feels like a responsibility. I embrace the wigs
more than I used to. I was very shy about the alopecia but having a lot
of positive publicity around the World Championships helped my
confidence. Knowing that I made a difference to people too was good.
'I’m OK with what I look like without
the wig when it’s just after the race and I’m in the velodrome but I
don’t feel like that the rest of the time. I wouldn’t want to go without
a wig elsewhere.'
Joanna wore one of her wigs for her appearance on Daybreak, where she showed off her gold medal
And the inspirational star reveals that as an alopecia sufferer it hasn't been easy to get this far.
She said: 'There were times when it was a real struggle.
'I was really shy as a kid and didn’t want to join any clubs outside of school because I didn’t want to meet new people.
'But once I found the cycling, I had the mentality that it wasn’t going to hold me back. I was told I had potential and there was no point wasting the opportunity.'
VIDEO: Gold medal winner Joanna Roswell talking about her alopecia with Daybreak