Anna Meares has announced her retirement from professional cycling to call time on a 15-year career that has seen her become Australia's most successful Olympic cyclist with six medal, 11 track world championships titles, five Commonwealth Games gold medals, and 35 national track titles. Meares contemplated retirement from the sport in the aftermath of the August games before making her announcement Sunday.
Meares' last competitive outing for Australia came at the Rio Olympic Games in August, winning bronze in the keirin to become the first Australian to medal at four consecutive games in individual event. Last year, Meares became the most decorated female track cyclist of all time.
"Cycling Australia and the sport of cycling in Australia have given me so much and I am so profoundly proud of being a cyclist and a member of the Cycling Australia team," Meares said in a statement from Cycling Australia. "I am really proud of my longevity, also proud of the level of high consistency in my performances and results during my career.
Speaking on the Wide Word of Sports television programme, Meares added that she took time to make her decision "to get over the emotion of the Olympic Games and multi-sport competition, which I could live in that space all the time. I love it," she said.
"Having looked back and seen all the things that I have achieved, and assessed some of the injuries that I have had to manage going into Rio," she added. "Most people aren't aware that just to get to Rio I had six cortisone injections through my spine, had to train strapped for the six months leading into it and to achieve the things that I have, I feel satisfied and very happy to step aside from the sport and try something new and different."
The first international medal of Meares' career came in the sprint at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, kick starting her career that would see her go on to claim gold at the 2004 Athens Games in the 500m time trial, and a second gold at London 2012 in the sprint ahead of long time rival Victoria Pendleton (Great Britain). Along with her numerous medal and titles, Meares was also named the Australian Cyclist of the Year in 2008 and 2012.
While Meares enjoyed great success across her career, a crash at the January 2008 Los Angeles Track World Cup round left her with a fractured C2 vertebra, dislocated right shoulder, torn ligaments and tendons, along with bruising and abrasions. A miraculous recovery saw Meares qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games, winning the silver medal in the sprint with Pendleton claiming the gold.
"It is hard to close this chapter, because it is a bloody big one, but I am really excited about the doors opening in to the next chapter of my life," she added. "I am really proud I have stuck around for as long as I have and while some people think I have made it look easy, I had to work so hard to stay on top. And I have been challenged extensively throughout my career and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of those challenges.
"I feel that I have grown with each experience and they have left me a better athlete, a better person [then] when I came into it, which I am really proud of."
Meares was the flag bearer for the Australian team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games opening ceremony and will also be honoured at the 2018 Brisbane Commonwealth Games with the velodrome to be named after the Queenslander.