Let’s Get Physical

Track Cycling World Championships – Night Three

Patrick O’Keeffe

April 7, 2012.


The night is all about Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton. This is where the drama is, the excitement and the tension. Meares and Pendleton don’t like eachother, by all accounts.


This rivalry is intensified in the first of three sprints in their semi final, when Pendleton moves off her racing line into Meares, and fall heavily on the track. Meares sails through to take the first win, while Pendleton is helped off the track by a number of British coaches. She moves gingerly, with ripped holes in her lycra underscoring the impact of the crash. It could be assumed that she is finished in this race, event if she continued; the impact of the crash would certainly undermine her performance. Nevertheless, she continues and takes the second sprint, after Meares is controversially relegated, due to a ruling by the Commissaire. This pair cannot escape drama.


As the riders return to the track for the third and deciding sprint, the crowd roar is intense. The riders roll slowly around the track, checking each others movements until Meares pounces with 150m to go, dropping down onto the inside of the track. Meares has gone for broke, and the crowd are willing her to the line. However, Pendleton gradually starts to claw back the advantage, and takes the lead at the last possible moment. The British coaches are ecstatic. The crowd is slightly deflated. Meares continues around the track, accepting the applause of an appreciate audience. Pendleton has won through to the final and Meares will fight it out for the bronze medal.


Riders are whirring around the track as they compete in the points race as part of the multi-disciplinary Womens Omnium. A Latvian rider crashes into the board with a sickening thud. A burly mechanic quickly runs over a new bike, while the rider appears incapable of moving. The location of medical staff remains a mystery. The remaining riders continue to pulse around the track, as a long line of coaches bark instructions in numerous languages from the inside of the track. Annette Edmondson of Stirling, South Australia places fifth in the race and leads the field at the half way point of the Omnium competition.


The heat inside the arena is stifling. I wonder how this is affecting the riders, who are blissfully unaware of the cyclonic conditions outside. Meares returns for the second round of her bronze medal ride-off and defeats her Ukrainian opponent with consummate ease. Meares is left to wonder what might have been. Speaking after the race, Meares rued giving Pendleton a second chance in the semi final. “The most irritating thing is that I felt so good. I feel more disappointed because I know that I’m capable of winning.” Asked about the performance of the Australian team at the championships, Meares seems to channel the frustrations of so many elite sportspeople and their relationship with the media, stating that “It’s hard to see the big picture, when that picture is always right in front of your face.”


Almost inevitably, Pendleton secures the gold medal, after her Latvian opponent, Simona Krupeckaite is relegated due to an indiscretion. Returning to the teams area, Pendleton is very emotional. After being cast as the villain for much of the lead in to the tournament, Pendleton has won the crowd with her bravery. She gingerly peels off her racing strip to reveal a shoulder that is housing more tape than Chris Judd’s left and right shoulders combined. She tells media that her dad has always said that you shouldn’t do the sport unless you are prepared to crash. Speaking of her role as chief bad girl, Pendleton says “I did feel like it was going to be a tough crowd, a tough environment.” Prior to the medal ceremony, Meares and Pendleton embrace, though the friction between the pair is noticeable. As the trio of medalists wait, Meares and Krupeckaite talk happily, while Pendleton leaves the duo and re-appears just in time for the ceremony to commence.


Glen O’Shea, competing in the Mens Omnium, has been on the outer for some time. He is back in the team for this meet. He is leading the event, with the 1 km time trial to go. One of the last two riders to step onto the track, he must be feeding from the crowd who roars for the Australian. Sounds bounces around the arena as O’Shea rumbles around the track, he knows that a strong performance will see him crowned as world champion. He doesn’t disappoint, claiming Australia’s second title of the event. Previously out of favour with the selectors, O’Shea says that he took time off in 2010 to re-assess where he was going, before “Working my arse off” to get back into the team. “I was working a part time job, doing all the hard things,” says a triumphant O’Shea, who would be hard to unseat for a spot on the plane to London now.


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