Women’s track sprinting world champion Victoria Pendleton has admitted she is already feeling the weight of expectation for the London 2012 Olympics, revealing she mentally struggles to savour the emotions of success.
"It's probably something to do with being a little bit mental. I have quite vivid dreams and it usually involves fighting, death, being chased,” Pendleton explained in a revealing interview in the Guardian newspaper.
“Dreaming of being chased by some killer is normal for me. There's a lot of tension and stress in what I do and so I'll always have these dreams of struggle and trying to escape. It's totally fine. It's just my conscious and subconscious having a little chat."
“The fact that I'm already having all these bad dreams about being chased is a bit worrying. I'm always being chased by a monster. Sometimes the monster is a killer or a murderer. It doesn't really matter because I know exactly what that monster is as it hunts me down. The monster's got a big 2012 written all over it."
Retire at the top
Pendleton begins the long process of qualifying for London 2012 at next week’s European Track Championships in Pruszkow, Poland. She has already won eight world titles on the track and won gold in the sprint in Beijing.
Following the introduction of gender equality in cycling for 2012, Pendleton has a chance to equal Sir Chris Hoy’s Beijing achievement of winning three gold medals in the sprint, team sprint and keirin. It is the cause of her nightmares but she wants to defeat her demons so she can retire at the very top.
“I've watched so many people winning gold and I've felt so emotional but, when it was me up there, I was numb. It felt like I wasn't even there,” she admitted.
"But I'm putting myself through it again in 2012 because I owe it to myself – and to my friends and family and coaches. I want to do it to say thank you very much and now I'm done. I want it to be the most amazing exit I could possibly have from the sport. But even this far out there's a huge pressure looming. I'd be fibbing if I didn't admit it's bothering me."
"Having three medal opportunities is a great thing for the sport: that's the cop-out answer. If Chris Hoy hadn't won all three it would have been an amazing opportunity. But now that he's already done it, that opportunity exerts real pressure. People will expect it to be a strong possibility for me and that makes life a lot harder."
"People say it must be wonderful, being a gold medalist, and I do fib a lot. I say, 'It's a fantastic achievement, the greatest moment of my life.' But I'm not like Tom Daley. I haven't drawn a little picture of me on the podium. I quite enjoy sport and now I'm an Olympic champion. It's a bit weird, isn't it? It can feel out of my control, like I'm going downhill too fast and there are no brakes. But it can also be fun going downhill. It can be exhilarating."