|A Home Worlds|
|A Home Worlds|
Fast forward 8 years to 2012 and a lot has changed. I am now 28 years of age, the London Olympics loom (my third Games) with this Olympics being the first in history to see an equal event quota for men and women at 5 events a piece on the Track and the World Titles returned to Melbourne where I was the only member to remain from the 2004 Worlds team.
Feeling excited I packed my bags for the short 1 hour flight from Sydney where we had been for 2 weeks on camp prior to the World Titles and I reminisced for a moment... Something that doesn’t occur much as an elite athlete always looking forward to the next challenge, obstacle or event, and I realised how incredibly far I had travelled and how unbelievably fast the time had all of a sudden felt to have gone by.
I was re walking a path I was on 8 years ago, heading to a home World Championships in Melbourne. In 2004 my boyfriend Mark Chadwick was in the stands along with my parents, my siblings and their partners. In 2012 Mark was now my husband and again he sat in the stands with my parents, my siblings and partners and this time I had two little nieces in attendance to watch their Aunty Nina race her bike.
In 2004 Mark had epically long side burns which he bargained a deal with me that if I won he would shave them off. In 2012 no bargains were made but the memory of those side burns live on J In 2004 I was nobody in the cycling world. No one knew me or my talent potential. I was just a hopeful athlete looking for a shot at my first Olympic team. In 2012 It seemed everyone knew the name MEARES and with that came a very touching and enormous base of support and willingness to succeed. There was expectation, there was pressure, there was me performing at a level I was now very accustomed to.
In 2004 I had long blonde hair with brown under tinges; In 2012 I have dark short styled hair. In 2004 I wore RED lipstick; in 2012 I wear a natural light pink. In 2004 I was not real sure if I belonged in the Australian Colours at such a prestigious level, in 2012 the Aussie colours and suit feel like my home. And it was at home in 2012 at the Melbourne World Championships where I raced my heart out for myself, for my family, for my team and for Australia.
The Hisense arena was packed and buzzing for night one of racing. Kaarle and I were up in the women’s team sprint. Warm up was done. All the preparation was finished. We were sitting in the marshalling area awaiting our turn to ride in front of 6000 Aussies with a few Internationals mixed in there as well. The German pairing Welte and Vogel had just crossed the line and posted a new WR in their qualifying run of 32.6 seconds. If I was to react naturally I would have dropped my jaw it was such a good ride. A big PB for them and a level Kaarle and I had never reached before. But I kept clam applauded and turned to Kaarle. “If it’s fast for them, then it’s going to be fast for us.” That’s all that was said.
We lined up to such a roaring welcome from the crowd. I was amped with adrenaline and nerves but also a desire to perform. The clock began to count and beeeepppp. The gates released and we were away as the last team on the track up against the British Pairing of Varnish and Pendleton from Great Britain. This was going to be a big heat. Defending world champs (us) up against the former world record holders (them). I crossed the line and didn’t even look at the board. I wanted to get a good view on where Kaarle was in relation to Pendleton and from my view it was good. We were up. Now where would we finish? Second fastest behind the German pairing having ridden a time of 32.7 seconds. I was really pleased with this time being a PB for Kaarle and I and it was also under the former world record held by Britain.
An hour would pass before we lined up again for the final against a very fast German pairing. The crowd was heavily on our side and the roar seemed to follow us around the track as though we were bringing the noise with us. I crossed the line and we were up but not by much. It was going to be a hard fought battle down to the wire and down to the wire it went with Germany coming up victors by a mere 0.048seconds and again in a new World Record time of 32.5 seconds.
Hard to explain the emotions that go through you at that moment. I felt disappointed to lose, disappointed to lose in front of a home crowd, disappointed to lose by such a minor margin yet pleased that Kaarle and I had just ridden out of our skin. The time we posted in the final was a PB by 0.3seconds. That margin of time over such a short distance is enormous. You can’t ask more of yourself if your go out and produce your absolute best so it was a real mixed bag in that sense. I was certain of one thing though, how very proud I was of myself, of Kaarle, of Gary and the team who had worked so hard to get us there in the condition we were in.
Day one Team Sprint quickly morphed into Day two and Sprinting. It started with the qualifying and being defending champ I was to ride last after witnessing all my opponents qualify before me. As the riders posted times I was acutely aware of how slow the times seemed. Riders who had ridden sub 11 seconds throughout the season were not riding sub 11. I thought that perhaps the track was not fast this afternoon and that perhaps I should reconsider the time goal that lay lurking in my head. “Bah”, I thought, “enough of that.”
10.782 Seconds.... NEW WORLD RECORD!!!!!!!
Seriously I did not know what to do nor what to think other then, What The???
With such a ride in the qualifying comes a certain level of complacency in some that the outcome of the match racing is a fore gone conclusion. I wish this were the case because it would mean the actual outcome was wrong. The fastest sprinter doesn’t always win. The Sprinter who has the best combination of all the fields required (speed, strength physical and mental, tactical ability, decision making skills, etc) wins. Unfortunately it would prove this year that I was not to be the World Champion but would end up Bronze Medallist. An achievement that is a big success however not what I wanted and with that result came the feelings of disappointment, failure, and dissatisfaction. However after a night of talking with Gary and talking with Mark I was able to eventually let go of these feelings and realise that I lost a bike race and it was not by any means the end of my world or the world as I knew it. And that Day four of competition was a new day and a new event where the outcome was far from concluded.
It wasn’t until I walked in the Velodrome on the morning of Day four in readiness to warm up for the Keirin that I was able to let go and move on. Perhaps I needed the very environment that made me feel this way to help me take that feeling away again and when I did get there, boy oh boy did those 10.7 legs begin to speak in volumes!
Keirin Qualifying round three- winner Anna Meares.
The Semi finals of the keirin saw the draw split. Heat one was a mixed heat of experience and novice riders, however Heat 2 could have been the final. It had 5 of the 6 riders being former world Champions. It was unbelievably loaded and I did have the luck of the draw in getting the not so loaded heat.
The final in my mind saw three big danger riders in Clara Sanchez of France a dual world Keirin Champion from 2004/5, Kristina Vogel of Germany New World champion and World Record holder from the team sprint and Shuang Guo of China world Keirin Champion of 2009 and Beijing Olympic Sprint Bronze Medallist. Other then myself there was also Gnidenko of Russia and Mu Di of China. But I drew 4th behind the derny and danger riders 1, 2, and 3 were in front of me so I felt in control and waited for my opportune moment to pounce and pounce I did with all my power and I got over the top almost a lap later to win the gold medal my 9th in my career in front of a crowd who were deafeningly loud and who felt to be riding the wave of emotion I had been on with me the last few days. And it was then I realised that Australia wasn’t Disappointed in me, they were disappointed for me and they got behind me in my fight to not give up they came back to cheer me on again in an attempt to win the Keirin. Thank you Australia, thank you to those at the venue who lent their energy to me through their voices to get me over the line. I snuck up to the apron of the track and spotted Harry Hart who gave me a hand up the edging of the track to give my husband Mark a smooch. I then very carefully walked in my racing cleats across the edging (much to my team management dismay) to see some friends and my first coach Ken Tucker for a priceless hug and thank you. But it wasn't till I got back to the pits before I could give my coach Gary West a hug and say thank you for all he had done from me in the past 24 hours. To stand by me and support me and feel the disappointment from the sprint but be so driven to keep not only his chin up but my chin up as well for his belief was so strong that I would win the Keirin, that he was relentless in reinforcing the positives with me till I went to my room and upon waking the next day. Positivity and belief really is contagious!
After such a high and with the Olympic events run and won there left one more thing to do. Race the 500m Time Trial. In 2004 I was off early and won with a time of 34.34 seconds. I had to wait nervously for all the riders to go before I knew where I would place. Since that day I have always been in the last three to ride. In 2012 I was 7th off in a field of 23 riders because I hadn’t ridden one in 18 months and so had no ranking. I couldn’t help but laugh at the poor starting order I got but loved it all the same, absolutely no pressure at that end of racing for me anyway.
I didn’t even get announced before the crowd spotted me and began to cheer when I walked up the stairs to the track. When I did get announced the crowd was amazing. So loud. But it was about to be topped. With silence from 35 seconds in the clock count down; something I have never experienced; the gate released and almost in unison with my first down stroke of the pedal I felt the Goosebumps on my skin rise with the pitch of the crowd. It was truly deafening. So much so that when I watch the TV coverage of the race I can spot kids in the crowd with their hands pressed to their ears! I wanted this one so badly, to be riding a time trial again for the first time in 18 months after having to give it up to be competitive with the big guns in the sprint I was in my element. I crossed the lined and looked to the board to see, 33.010 seconds and NEW WORLD RECORD flash before my eyes. My ears were ringing from the crowd’s relentlessness to not be silent and I was humbled by a standing ovation for my performance. I sat this time calmly waiting for each rider to post a time with confidence I had done enough. Sitting in the pits I could only think “0.010 seconds off of 32 seconds!” ha ha ha
As the last rider Sandy Clair finished it was clear that I had won. After a mixed bag of emotions through the results of the week and after 8 years since I was here last (9 seasons) of competition I ended the World Titles in Melbourne in 2012 on a high winning my 10th career world Crown in the very event I won my first on the very same track. My 10 career world titles puts me on par with the highest amount of world titles ever won by a sprint women. Me and the Great Felicia Ballanger of France share a very special place on that perch. How perfect a night could that Sunday have been? A hug for Reggie, My first coach whom I dedicated the ride to after all those years he looked after me as a young girl in regional Queensland trying to forge a path of her own to the Grown woman who stood with her coach Gary West on top of the World. A very proud moment in time.
I had two mates getting married in Melbourne this weekend, Damian and Emma Harris and I was unable to attend the wedding on Saturday night as this was the Keirin final night. At the wedding were many of the mates Mark and I had grown up cycling with in Rockhampton and have all remained a very tight nit great group of friends. Little did I know but all of them got tickets to come and watch me race the 500m on the Sunday night and it was so great a surprise to catch up with them all post race. There is a great pic of us all in this blog.
All in all Melbourne and Hisense arena have always been a very happy hunting ground for me I have had a lot of success on this track at World Championships level, World Cup level and Commonwealth Games level. This year was no different and I still leave this great stadium with very fond memories and much love.
I got some really great coverage through the media while the Titles were on including the Age newspaper Front Page on a Sunday when competing with AFL football! Huge I know! As well as a spot on the Today show where I mentioned and thanked my sponsors for their crucial support. If you missed it you can see it on the link below... It was very cold this morning just to give you a heads up.
Now that the worlds have been run and won there is but one competition left for 2012 and that is the big one. The London Olympic Games. The Australian Track cycling team was officially announced last week. 14 strong riders will embark on a trip that will take them to places and heights that they have never experienced before. 2 of the 14 riders have had the privilege of attending an Olympics before and representing Australia, Myself and Jack Bobridge. It's a young team but it's a hungry team. My motivation and desire to succeed is higher then ever and the enthusiasm and work ethic of my team mates is contagious. I am loving the time preparing with my team for my third Games and I cannot wait. See you there or on the tele.