Victoria Pendleton is facing the same problem as many women in other pursuits: being a woman in a man's world. No matter how successful she is, she feels things are harder for her simply because she is female.
“I work in a very male-oriented environment and it is hard sometimes,” she said on thisislondon.co.uk. “Nobody has ever told me I cannot do anything but you have to do it in a very masculine way. You have to be harder, tougher, develop a thicker skin and emotions have to be pushed to one side — you can't cry. When I do, I have to apologise, say: I'm sorry everyone, I'm just having an emotional day'.”
She continued, “people don't take me quite as seriously as they would Sir Chris Hoy. I get frustrated that my voice isn't as well heard as others. To get my point across, I have to push it a little bit harder. I was talent-spotted at 16 and people still see me as that teenage girl.”
The 30-year-old is a highly successful track rider, having won the gold medal in the sprint at the 2008 Olympics and a total of eight world titles over the years. She is also highly in demand by advertisers.
Pendleton doesn't deny her femininity, saying she likes cooking and sewing, as well as pretty clothes. “It's nice to get dressed up and look pretty. I don't think there are many girls out there who wouldn't enjoy that. I'm still a girl at the end of the day.”
She credits her father with pushing her to where she is today. Her twin brother and older sister were also cyclists, but stopped racing at age 16. “That's when you have to race with grown men. It's a big step, quite hard, and they did not have the enthusiasm to keep up the training.”
Her father then concentrated his attention on her. “Dad pushed me; wanted me to fulfil my potential, and I wouldn't have got to where I've got to without him.”
Oddly enough, she prefers training to racing. “I would like to get more from racing, but I don't. I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than race.
“It's a difficult situation to be in. You have two or three days in the year when you want to perform at your absolute best. There's no guarantee you can do it; all you can do is make sure you get the work in beforehand, the rest is out of your hands almost. You only get one chance to do it, there's no margin for error in the sport industry.”
Her gold medal was only one of many for the highly successful British team in Beijing, but the next Olympics are already looming on the horizon, and they will be on her home turf, as London is hosting the 2012 Olympics.
“London is going to be the biggest weight I'll ever have to carry on my shoulders," she said and admitted that winning gold there “would be more important than winning gold in Beijing”.
It will also most likely mean the end of her career and the start of the next stage of her life. She and fiancé, sports scientist Scott Gardner, plan to marry after the Olympics, with a family coming later. “ I'd like to have a bit of a life first, a life outside of cycling.”