Anna Meares has defended the performance of Australia team sprint teammate Kaarle McCulloch after the pair won a bronze medal on day one of the 2012 Olympic Games track cycling program.
There was no shortage of drama at the London Velodrome with race commissars relegating the Chinese and the Great British pairings for illegal changeovers. However the analysis from some media quarters of McCulloch’s qualifying ride didn’t sit well with Meares.
The more experienced of the two, Meares, led off for Australia against Jess Varnish in qualifying, with McCulloch riding to the finish against Victoria Pendleton. Great Britain thrilled the crowds with a new Olympic and World Record time of 32.526, bettering the mark set by Germany at the world championships in April this year. Australia had lost the match-up by 0.3 of a second and would not be competing for the gold medal.
"I don't like to hear people make the comment that 'it's your position that lost it for us' tonight," Meares who has now made history as the first female track cyclist to win medals in three straight Games after her gold and bronze in Athens, silver in Beijing and bronze in London explained. "We ride out there as a team."
So much of the pre-Olympic focus on the track has been on the battle between Meares and home-favourite Pendleton with the team sprint the first match-up of the two for the Games. "Queen Victoria" versus the so-called villain in the British media, Meares. It’s a battle that even the Australian media bought into, with an Australian journalist asking Pendleton earlier in the week if she thought Meares was "a cow".
McCulloch was pressed by the British press if she had let her teammate down, and her emotions boiled to the surface.
"Since we lost at the test event in Feb I've known I have to do everything I can to go faster," the 24-year-old said.
"Unfortunately it just didn't happen. Everything I've been doing in training has shown I can go faster."
Meares and McCulloch had been three-time world champions in the event until this year when Germany took the mantle.
"The position Kaarle is in, teaming up with me, is a difficult one," Meares, 28, continued. "I kind of overshadow her a bit, and I make it very difficult for her in the position that she rides. I do have the fastest standing lap of any woman in the world, and she has to match it. So she's burning energy, and she's burning more energy than a lot of women in second wheel. She not only has to hang on to the fastest woman in the world, but to match the fastest women in the world in the second position - Victoria Pendleton and Kristina Vogel... I think she holds her own, and I think she should be proud," Meares said matter-of-factly.
"I know it's not what she wanted, and what we wanted as a team. We want more, we're perfectionists. I know she's going to go back and break it down over the next four years, but maybe with time she'll realize how special this moment really is."
For McCulloch, the team sprint is her only event of the Games with Meares continuing to the keirin and sprint.