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Victoria Pendleton, Britain's golden girl of track cycling, described her delight at being made a CBE by the Queen.
The sportswoman brought a glittering career in bike racing to a close at London 2012 by retiring after winning a keirin gold and sprint silver last summer, to add to her gold from Beijing 2008.
Pendleton has also won nine world titles including a record six in the individual sprint competition during a career that made headlines for almost ten years.
But she regretted not adding to her tally of golds at London 2012 after she was disqualified from the women's team sprint finals for being judged to have broken a takeover rule.
Speaking after the ceremony, Pendleton said: "When you see an envelope come through the door with ER on the postmark it's pretty exciting and you open it up and it offers you a huge reward.
"Having an MBE already I didn't expect to get anything further then that really, so to get an upgrade to a CBE is very special."
Speaking about her memories of London 2012, she recalled: "There was so much going on it was so busy, so much emotion in what you were doing, it kind of all muddles into one.
"I was going for three golds but I ended up with one gold and one silver due to judges' decisions as well. You don't plan for mishaps of that nature.
"I would have loved to have been more successful at the Olympics but to come away with a gold medal and a silver medal, I'm still very proud of it."
The sportswoman, who arrived with her fiancé Scott Gardner, was a contestant on the last series of the BBC celebrity dance show Strictly Come Dancing.
"It was really good fun but hard work, I lost a lot of muscle which upset me because I wasn't weight training anymore, but I thoroughly enjoyed it - the hair, make-up, the costumes.
"It was something different to do to fill that gap after a major event. I knew it was going to feel terrible - I'd retired, the Olympics were over, it was going to be a bit of an anti-climax, so having something like Strictly to fill that gap was a good thing, that's why I took it on in the first place."
Pendleton is a former Commonwealth Games sprint gold medallist, winning in Melbourne 2006 and a double European team sprint champion.
The double Olympic gold medal winner rode her first race, a 400 metre event, on a grass track at Fordham in Cambridgeshire when she was nine.
Despite being talent-spotted by a national coach at the age of 16, the cyclist focused on her education and completed a degree before dedicating herself to her sport full-time.
Her success made her the pin-up girl of the cycling world and she was the cover star of magazines like Esquire and Harper's Bazaar and launched a range of women's bikes with Halfords.
Triathlete Alistair Brownlee, 24, who lived up to the hype to deliver gold at London 2012, was awarded an MBE.
His 22-year-old brother Jonny, a fellow competitor, came away with bronze, making the pair the first British siblings to stand on the same podium in an individual event for more than a century.
He said: "Triathlon, most of the time it is only a niche sport and flies under the radar but then all of a sudden it is in the Olympics and the home Olympics in London, on such a brilliant course - we came right outside Buckingham Palace - a lot of people today have said they saw me racing - that's quite cool."
He added: "It was fantastic, but it's time to set the next goal. That's what being an athlete's all about - setting yourself the next goal and achieving that."
Paralympic swimmer Josef Craig, 16, winner of the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award, also received an MBE.
He was presented with the honour after becoming Britain's youngest Paralympic gold medallist during London 2012, winning the S7 400 metres freestyle when aged just 15.
The teenager, who appeared very composed after meeting the Queen, said about his Olympic win: "I can remember an overwhelming sense of achievement, relief and joy, and surprise. That was a massive shock to us to see what I had done."
The Paralympian from Jarrow, South Tyneside, is a huge fan of Newcastle United Football Club and said one of the biggest perks of his success is being invited to watch his beloved "Toon" play by the manager.
He added: "Getting the Young Sports Personality of the Year award and now the MBE, I can't think of a better way to have ended the year.
"In the 400 (metres freestyle) I'm the fastest in the world now and the man to beat. Many would ask us, does that put us off, does that put increased pressure on us? Yes, that's put increased pressure on us but I enjoy the pressure, I live off it, it's what makes us an athlete."