Anna Meares contemplating retirement after final Olympic Games appearance
Australian finishes tenth sprint to close her racing schedule in Rio
Australia's most successful cyclist with six Olympic Games medals, Anna Meares will make a decision in the next two weeks if she will retire from track cycling. The 32-year-old won bronze in the Keirin to make history as the only Australian to medal in four different Olympic Games.
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Meares' final Olympic outing was the sprint in which she finished tenth for her lowest result in the event having won previously bronze in 2004, silver in 2008 and gold in 2012.
"For the first time in 22 years, my body, I just couldn't get any more out of it," Meares said after finishing second in the final to Natasha Hansen (New Zealand). "But major final or minor final I raced as hard as I could; anytime I put on this uniform I try to put myself in the best position to win and I did that, but just my legs gave way."
"It's hard to go out in the 9th-12th places. I must admit, to finish 10th is pretty brutal. I knew my sprinting was going to be the hardest part for me in these Games, but I didn't expect to be that far out."
In an emotional post-race interview with Channel 7, a disappointed Meares said "I hope people can forgive me that I didn't deliver this time".
"The perfectionist in me and the elite athlete that I've been for so long just finds it really hard to comprehend that result but at the same time I'm very proud because I knew that was going to be tough," Meares added.
Meares win bronze in the women's keirin to become Australia's most successful Olympic cyclist having also won gold in the 500m time trial at the 2004 Olympic Games, sprint gold at 2012 London, sprint silver in 2008, and bronze medals in the sprint at Athens, and team sprint in 2012.
"It's highs and lows, that's life. As heavy as I feel I'm still really proud of everything I've achieved and everything that I've done and I raced that minor final as I would have ridden an Olympic gold medal final," Meares said.
"It just shows where sprinting has shifted in the women's discipline and unfortunately, my physical elements, I haven't been able to train in the capacity to stay in competition."
With one day to come on the track, Australia has won just two medals with post-Olympic analysis sure to focus on the lack of success, Meares included, but the Queenslander explained that she is her own worst critic.
"I know that there will be a lot of criticism of my result in that event and believe me there's no one who will criticise me more than me," she said. "My best chances were always in the keirin and the team sprint and I delivered there and achieved my goals so I'm really proud, I'm really happy."
With her Olympic career over, Meares was also mulling over her career and what the future holds for her beyond Rio. Australia has already seen Mel Hoskins retire from the sport at 25 in the immeddiate aftermath of the her team pursuit ride but Meares won't be making a a decision on her future as quickly.
"I've got to ask myself what I want, where I want to go. I need to assess my body, it's very difficult and tantalising with the Gold Coast (Commonwealth Games) being so close but I also am 32 and I want to give myself the chance to get some perspective and I can't do that in this environment," Meares said.
"I'm going to take a year for myself, absolutely, but give me a week or two when I get home to talk to those people who are really important to me and then I'll let you know."
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