An interview with Anna and Kerrie Meares, November 5, 2005
With the 2005-06 track season about to get underway, track sisters Anna and Kerrie Meares go into the the season prepared for a busy schedule of racing that includes the Commonwealth Games, Oceania Games and world championships. Having recovered from a serious back injury which stalled progress last season, Kerrie Meares believes she's in the best form of her life whereas sister Anna is struggling a little with her own back complaint. Both are keen to perform in 2005-06 and spoke with Cyclingnews' Les Clarke about how it's all looking.
It's going to be a busy season for the Rockhampton sisters, with world cup rounds in Moscow, Manchester and Los Angeles, plus the Oceania Games and Commonwealth Games. This is followed by the world championships in Bordeaux, which signifies the end of the track season - but that's not all; in between these events there are domestic races such as the Sydney Thousand carnival, plus state and national championships where qualifying times can be recorded for the big internationl meets. So the pressure's never really off.
"I'll still be doing training and development rides to maintain my fitness over Christmas," said older sister Kerrie, indicating that there's not much time for rest in a packed schedule. "January 2 next year I have state championships then about a week after that Anna and I have the Los Angeles round of the world cup." Throughout February it's national championships time and then into the Commonwealth Games, where both sisters will be favourites for the sprint and 500m time trial titles. Do they think it will come down to a sibling sprint final? "It's definitely enticing. It's like a golden scenario for my parents - it'd be awesome for both of us to ride in the final; but we've got big competition. Current world champion, current Olympic sprint champion..." says Kerrie, something backed up by Anna. "We've got the current world champion, current Olympic champion, current world record holder and current Commonwealth Games champion. That's the thing - people say it's just the Commonwealth Games, but there's the cream of the crop going to Melbourne for track cycling."
Kerrie will be focussing on the 500m time trial and the sprint, and although she believes "The sprint would be my pet, I'm definitely working on my time trial as well." She's feeling strong in training, and also believes she's in the best form of her cycling career. This is something the elder Meares appreciates a lot as she's been suffering from a back injury sustained approximately three years ago during the Moscow round of the world cup. "I came down really hard while racing in Moscow about three years ago...I couldn't feel my legs for a few seconds, but then I started getting pins and needles - it was like they fell asleep for a bit." From then on it was a constant struggle, especially with the Athens Olympics approaching; Kerrie just really wanted to ride, the result being that she didn't leave enough time to recover properly. But now she's "Definitely a lot better." She's not expecting to set the world on fire, but says, "this year I'm just hoping to be able to surprise myself. It's taken such a long time to get over this back injury; dealing with the frustration of not being able to train properly because of risk of reinjury - that phase takes a long time."
World record holder, Olympic gold medallist and sister Anna Meares is now having her battle with a back injury; sustained under different circumstances to sister Kerrie, her recovery was hampered recently with a fall caused by a hay truck. Left no room on the road as a hay truck passed her, Meares was forced to ride off the road and came down quite hard, sustaining cuts that required stitching. This didn't help in her efforts to recover from a back injury, caused by poor posture. She outlined the cause of the injury, saying, "In the neutral spine position I'm very weak. The doctor said I probably could have gotten away with it for the rest of my life, but because I'm very active I needed to fix it up - it's basically just a matter of retraining the muscles to hold good posture, and once we fix that things are starting to look up, which is good."
Anna will miss the Moscow round of the world cup this weekend, preferring to give herself more recovery time - her first race will be the Sydney Thousand track carnival later this month, whic will be a "good hitout for the Oceania Championships." Kerrie will be racing in Moscow this weekend, and is looking forward to the start of a busy schedule. Adding to this busy schedule will be sister Anna's wedding next May, which Anna says is "looking to be big, but we're hoping that it won't be too big. I think I'll just keep the ceremony open to whoever would like to come, but keep the reception to some close friends." Meares is getting married to partner Mark Chadwick, and according to the sisters their father had a bit to do with selecting Anna's dress. "Yeah, he actually helped me pick the dress. He was like, 'that really suits your figure...' we were so surprised!" says Anna, laughing.
In terms of their preparations for the 2008 Olympics, Anna and Kerrie Meares are still frustrated and confused over the UCI and IOC's decision to scrap the kilo and women's 500m time trial from the Olympic programme. Anna decided to take some action. "I wrote the UCI a letter, and tried to explain to them that they've left women's sprinting with one event, while leaving the men's endurance with four - I don't see that as fair and equal. I was really surprised the Kilo got flicked; that was the blue riband event of track cycling..."
She received a response from Hein Verbruggen [before Pat McQuaid became UCI president], saying, "'sorry, but nothing can be done,'" recalls Anna. "He said 'we couldn't tell people to vote for just the men's events,' but they've got double the number women have," she continued. "I'm really disappointed - I think we've been hard done by, and it makes it so hard because we don't really have anything other than the Olympics." Kerrie makes light what could be described as a ridiculous situation, saying, "Hopefully they'll actually have us [women] at the Olympics after Beijing - they might have cut back another event after 2008! It's not logical - it just does not make sense."
She continues by illustrating how riders weren't consulted in the process, saying, "That's the thing - I haven't talked to ANY bike riders that agree with the decision! If they had to ask all the countries again, the outcome would be different. Just from what we've been told, and talking to people...you've got to wonder whether athletes were actually involved in the decision." Younger sister Anna, who is the current world record holder and Olympic champion in the event, agrees. "I've been speaking to a few people in England - they're really upset that the kilo's been pulled out. It's one of the most traditional events in the Olympics and cutting it is an insult to that tradition. I haven't come across anyone who agrees with the decision," she said.