Meares brings home Olympic gold for Australia in women's sprint

It took six days of Olympic Games racing before the female British track cyclists could be beaten in straight up competition, but Australian Anna Meares finally silenced the raucous home crowds with a two race slam dunk against Victoria Pendleton in the individual sprint.

Excluding the team sprint, in which the British were relegated and kept out of the finals and Germany won, it is the only outsider gold medal for women in a sport where the home country won seven of 10 possible gold medals between men and women.

Meares felt joy, relief and pride at her own personal result, but knew all the while that the weight of her country's expectations were weighing heavily on her shoulders.

"We know we haven't performed to the expectation the Australian public want from our athletes and feel they deserve for the amount of time, effort and money that have been put in to the programmes.

"After my keirin, I was very disappointed, and definitely felt a heavy burden as a result," Meares said. But going into the event, she focused only on herself in order to keep the pressure off.

"I know it's selfish, but I did this one for myself. I knew if I did this one for myself I would fight all the way and the result would come, not only for myself, but for Australia. I really wanted to show that all the work I have done and my team had done and the funding that has been into our programmes and myself as a rider was worthwhile."

The dramatic match was a near repeat of Beijing, but this time the tables were turned for Meares, who lost in two races in 2008 but took two straight in London.

"I was actually very nervous racing against Guo [Shuang] in the semifinals - she's such a fighter and such a difficult opponent I was very nervous she might bump me down into the bronze medal match offs. My coach and I knew the sprint would be a repetition of the medallists in Beijing ... and once I was able to get the wins over Guo the focus moved towards Vicky."

The opening race against Pendleton came down to a narrow margin for the British star, but there was some bumping between the two heading out of the final turn, and it resulted in Meares being given the win.

"Before the relegation even came through I said to [my coach], 'I can do this, I can really do this'. I got a lot of belief and confidence out of my performance in that race. I knew I had good legs, I think that showed in the second one."

Meares called the win the biggest of her career. "Gold for me in Athens in 2004 (in 500m time trial) as a young 20-year-old, very inexperienced, and very much not expected to have that level of success.

"The expectation was very different this time. This event has been the one I have targeted. Bronze in Athens (2004), silver in Beijing (2008), I've wanted to be able to step one step higher here in London and the challenge was a big one."


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Laura Weislo
Managing Editor

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.