BMX Olympics silver medallist Kye Whyte was greeted with cheers and applause when he was welcomed home to Peckham in south London.
Young riders were among the crowd which packed The Prince Of Peckham pub, at the centre of the community where the athlete grew up.
“It means the world, they were supporting me at 5am, little seven-year-olds, six-year-olds, to 59-year-olds, it is nothing but love,” he told the PA news agency.
Whyte added: “I still see myself as the same as everyone else, I don’t see myself as better than anyone else, I just know how to ride a bike.
“Obviously, outside of that I am a professional athlete and kids look up to that, so I have to live up to that as well and set a good example, especially kids from Peckham.”
Whyte has trained at Peckham BMX Club since 2003 and the area opened a new BMX track in 2013, with funding from Southwark Council, the National Lottery and the London Olympic Legacy Fund.
He added: “For me, I didn’t always have an easy upbringing, I had a couple of troubles on the way and Peckham isn’t necessarily a rich place, so if kids find a way through BMX to get out of stuff then do so, especially if it is a reliable stress relief.
“Obviously you can make money from it if you are good enough, so it’s just another way to get out of doing bad stuff, like football or rapping.”
Whyte said he hopes to continue to inspire children by winning the BMX World Championships in the Netherlands later this month.
He added: “I always say three things: chase your dreams, train hard and have fun always. I say this to anyone of any age.”
Whyte earned Britain’s first BMX racing Olympic medal and was followed moments later by Beth Shriever, who won gold.
“Obviously me and Beth made history,” he said.
“Even though other countries had more riders than us, me and Beth both got medals and freestyle each got medals in both categories of men and women so I think BMX is taking over the country right now.”