Today is February 29th, that one extra day in every four years added to the month of Feb; one day extra added each Olympic Year. I have not long returned from the 2012 Olympic land after competing in what was the final world cup of the season.
We travelled 30 hours to reach London for what would be my very first visit to the historical city and I fell in love with the place. The beauty seemed to hit me everywhere I turned. I was excited on the bus ride from the airport to tick off seeing a red double Decker bus, a red mail box, red telephone booth, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square just to name a few. How can one city have so much to see and do?
But sightseeing (unfortunately) wasn’t on the agenda this trip for it was all business. World Cup number four and a chance to witness Olympic Park and the Olympic Velodrome itself and boy oh boy it didn’t disappoint.
Security was at a high for this test run event and we had to travel with passports in hand as our form of Id which needed to match our passes to get anywhere within Olympic park. Bomb squads and dogs checked every transport vehicle as we entered and were then toured round passing the media centre, swimming, basketball and hockey venues. The velodrome, nick named ‘the pringle’ is a stadium that from the outside seemed small, even with its impressive design and texture on the outside but once inside it was plain to see there was nothing small about it.
Unusual to see in a velodrome a roof that dips low over the infield of the track and climbs high into the rafters to the poor man’s stands (don’t worry this is where my family are sitting for the games ), This made the venue feel tight and compact but amplified in an astounding manner the noise of the crowd. What the roof did in one instance it completely obliterated it in another for the 6000 strong British clad crowd who attended the world cup made it sound like there were at least 20,000 of them in attendance. It was truly amazing and goose bump stuff.
Onto competition and I raced in three events, all three Olympic events the team sprint, keirin and Individual Sprint. In the team sprint in qualifying Kaarle and I set a new world record and qualified fastest only to unfortunately have the result flipped in the final against British pairing of Jess Varnish and Vicky Pendleton who again broke the newly set record of Kaarle and I. It was an amazing performance by the British pair and now bodes for a tantalising clash at the world titles in only a few weeks time in Melbourne.
The Individual sprint followed the next day and I qualified fastest in a new Pb time and new Australian Record time of 10.939 seconds. I progressed well through round 1, quarters and met Vicky Pendleton in the semi to record some of, if not the fastest women’s recorded sprint matches in history. It was a brutal physical encounter which I won 2-1 in front of a very vocal crowd. I did however have some very special people in my corner, my cousin Esther Fletcher her husband and children who live now in the UK came to watch me race and braved the crowd to cheer for me :) It had been 20 years since I last saw Esther in New Zealand as little girls, it was so nice to see her again and meet her kids. I was amazed how much she looked like her mum to which she quickly replied with the same comment :) I progressed through to the final where unfortunately I wasn’t able to back up my high quality rides against Vicky and I was defeated by China’s Shuang Guo in two straight heats. Huge credit to Guo, the Olympic Bronze medallist in this event in 2008.
The Individual sprint this season has proven to be the most hard fought for titles. There has been no stand out dominating rider although Guo would look to be the favourite having collected two world cup wins this season. This event though could fall into the hands of at least 6 serious contenders at the World titles and Olympic Games. How good is this going to be. I know I need to work very hard to put myself in the best position and I believe I have done that.
Final day in London saw the Keirin unfold with so many riders that an extra round was added to accommodate for the largest field of women’s sprinters ever for the event. 47 competitors and a possible 6 rounds if you were unlucky. Unlucky for Guo who made the final having to ride every round and myself not far behind having to ride 4 previous. It was a hot final seeing the sprint top four place getters along with Krupecaite and Shulika who did not compete in the sprint event this tournament. I led it out knowing everyone was looking for the easy run given the extreme fatigue from the full day of racing. For me I wasn’t looking for the easy win, so I challenged myself in the world class field and was surpassed with only meters to go to the finish. Swamped and placing 6th I was so pleased with my performance, work ethic and mind set and so positive knowing that with the weeks till worlds, working on length and speed and tapering, those extra few meters at the finish will be there next time around. And wouldn’t you know it I did get to do some sightseeing the day before we flew home. Yay!
London world cup gave me more then I could have hoped for in terms of Physical and mental preparation. I was challenged in every sense of the word from the physical competition to the mental competition, to handling the media to numbing the hype associated with the Olympics and seeing the stadiums for the first time. I know that when I next step foot in London I will be ready to take it all in and all on and this excites me greatly! Because this is what I have worked so hard for. But before London there is a weeeee little competition called the World Championships.
I am home now in Adelaide and settled back into the southern hemisphere time zone I am back into training and final preparation for the Melbourne world titles! It is going to be a cracker! I don’t think there are many tickets left so if you want to see the world’s best track cyclists head to ticketek to get tickets. I have almost my whole family and a big bunch of friends coming to watch and support me including my very first coach Ken Tucker. I hope I can make him, my family, me, my coach and indeed all of Australia Proud :)