London 2012: Anna Meares – Cycling
This wonderful segment from the Nine Network's coverage of the London Olympics profiles one of the most thrilling wins in Australian sporting history, Anna Meares' gold medal in the track cycling sprint – where she overcame her arch-rival, Victoria Pendleton from Britain.
Dating back to an incident at the 2006 World Championship in Bordeaux (France), the bitter feud between the two cyclists continued across several Commonwealth Games and Olympic championships. In 2008, Anna had broken her neck in a horrific crash at a cycling event in Los Angeles, but came back amazingly seven months later – wining silver at the Beijing Olympics, finishing just behind Pendleton.
The tension between the two had increased even further by London 2012 – and at this event Anna had to contend with the overwhelming home crowd support for their golden girl (dubbed by the British media, 'Queen Victoria').
Anna, however, had prepared well – spending the intervening three years training in a tailored strategy her team called ‘Know Thy Enemy'. This involved Anna racing against the male sprinter Alex Bird, who would mimic Pendleton's cycling style and technique.
In the final – a best-of-three sprint – Pendleton edged out Anna in a nail-biting first race but the referees then intervened, determining – somewhat controversially – that Pendleton had illegally moved off her line. The British media reported that this disqualification in the first race was the result of Anna's overly aggressive riding.
Heading into race two, Anna was one game up with a significant advantage. She held her nerve and won comfortably, killing off any hope for a final showdown. After years of tension, the two riders finally embraced, hands clenched in the air as a sign of mutual respect.
In Rio, Anna was the flag bearer and the Australian Olympic team captain. She is also the only Australian in history to win medals at four consecutive Olympic games.
The news footage captures the hallmarks that define Anna as a champion – passion, focus, dedication and hard work. Lovely additions include Anna hugging her coach (Gary West) and husband (Mark Chadwick) while walking a lap of the velodrome - she also spots the Australian swim team, who share in her victory.
Shots of the crowd, including onlookers such as fellow Olympian Stephanie Rice and American basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, help to convey the event's excitement and tension.
At the end of the segment, we see Anna – on the same day – watching a television live broadcast of Australian Olympian Sally Pearson's famous 100m hurdle gold medal run. And later on that unforgettable evening the two Australian champions spot one another at Stratford International railway station, where they embrace, lovingly.
Excerpt from NBN News Newcastle, 8 August 2012.