Kaarle McCulloch retires after glittering 15-year career

Australias Kaarle McCulloch with the 500m time trial gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
Australia's Kaarle McCulloch with the 500m time trial gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Kaarle McCulloch, one of Australia's most decorated cyclists, has announced that she will retired from a 15-year career in track cycling. McCulloch's sparkling career included four world titles, an Olympic bronze medal, three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, 21 Oceania titles and 15 national championships victories.  

"My medals and all my achievements have been fantastic, and I will cherish them for the rest of my life," said McCulloch in a press release issued by AusCycling Friday.

"But what I hope people remember me for is the effort that I put in. I wasn't the most talented athlete, but I was the hardest working, the most persistent. You'd ask me how high you want me to jump, and I'd do a little bit more."

As a junior athlete, McCulloch switched from Athletics to cycling and joined her local club, St George Cycling Club. She quickly rose through the ranks on the national and international competition. Her junior years were highlighted with World Championship bronze on debut for Australia in 2006.  

"I didn't know what I was doing. But I was out there giving it a go. But the support was immense from my club, from the New South Wales Institute of Sport, and then from the Australian Cycling Team. That just shows what that support can do for a motivated young person," said McCulloch, who note that she took to cycling straightaway and knew almost instantly that she wanted to continue with the sport, even as a junior rider.

Three years later, in 2009, McCulloch partnered with Anna Meares to win the first of three straight Team Sprint world titles, and together they set the world record in 2011. The pair also took Team Sprint gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. McCulloch made her Olympic debut at the London 2012 Olympic Games and, with Meares, defeated Ukraine to win the Team Sprint bronze medal.

"That period from 2009 through to 2012 was pretty amazing. And it was also a big learning curve for me because we just did not lose for a long period. So, that expectation became quite great, particularly in the final six to eight months leading into the Olympics, and I put too much pressure on myself," McCulloch said.

"But Anna and I, as a team, really were formidable. We were formidable because we were the first to training, we were the last two to leave, we dotted every 'i', we crossed every 't'.  

"In terms of the best combination that you could possibly get for a team, I really think that we had everything that you could look for. And that's why we were so successful.  

"I knew how hard she worked, and I didn't want to let her down, and I know that she didn't want to let me down, either."  

Meares retired from professional racing in 2016 and McCulloch went on to join forces in the Team Sprint with Stephanie Morton. Together they secured gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane, while McCulloch also won gold in the individual time trial, something she said she cherished.

"I was proud to be able to win, to celebrate that and to do a victory lap on my own. I had never been able to do that before. Going out into the crowd and seeing my family was just, you know, it gives me goosebumps still to this day, and it is one of the moments that I will cherish forever." 

McCulloch went on to secure her fourth career rainbow jersey in the Team Sprint with Morton at the 2019 World Championships, where she also took the Keirin silver and Time Trial bronze.

The pair took the silver medal in the Team Sprint at the 2020 World Championships. Morton retired from racing at the end of the 2020 season, which left Australia without a Team Sprint outfit for the Tokyo Olympic Games. McCulloch represented Australia in Tokyo racing the Keirin and Sprint in her second Olympic appearance.

"I was incredibly proud of myself to see Tokyo through because I had a severe chronic back injury that I sustained in late 2019 that really derailed my Tokyo campaign. I was still dealing with daily pain leading into Tokyo, so just to get to Tokyo was an incredible achievement," she said.

"And what I came to learn in my career over time was that success doesn't always look like a gold medal. Sometimes it is just a personal best or just fronting up and finishing something that you started." 

McCulloch thanked all those that helped her reach her goals across her 15-year career in track cycling. 

"There are so many people that I would like to think that I don't believe it would be fair for me to just pick a few names. The people who have had a massive impact on my career know who they are," she said.

"I just want them to know that I am so thankful because I know that I couldn't do what I did at the highest level for 15 years without their support. To the Australian Cycling Team who, just like the athletes, must turn up every day. I know that they also ride the highs and the lows with us. They feel our pain, but they also can celebrate with us. Thank you."

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