Timely advice from Eales inspires Meares
Australia’s golden sprint cycling queen Anna Meares has told of the strategy she used to combat the overwhelming support for her opponent, Brit Victoria Pendleton, in the packed cauldron of the Olympic Velodrome.
With about 95 per cent of the 6000 spectators screaming for Pendleton, Meares said she knew it would be a factor against her if she wasn’t prepared.
Meares said she got the answer during a supposed 10-minute, 10-question session with Athlete Liaison Officer John Eales at the Cyclones’ Monte Chiari training camp in Italy, which stretched to 90 minutes.
The former rugby union champion and Australia’s most successful captain spoke of how the Wallabies prepared themselves against the New Zealand All Blacks’ haka.
“Eales said the Australians would wear a tracksuit so they had an answer to the haka,” Meares said.
“So our sports scientist suggested we use a similar tactic. So I let her (Pendleton) go on to the track first, and let the crowd cheer for her while I stayed on the duckboard and gave myself time to settle down.
“I was very nervous and glad I had dyed my hair before competition because I would have a few grey hairs by now.”
Meares, 28, who took the gold in straight heats from Pendleton after the Brit was relegated in the first heat for going out of the sprint lane, said the supposed enmity between them was more media hype than reality.
“I am a good person, a good athlete and a good sport, and those are the qualities I would love to have seen portrayed to the British public,” she said.
Meares and Pendleton shared a private moment in the bowels of the velodrome while waiting for the medal presentation, which Meares said reduced her to tears, and “broke the ice” between them.
“Victoria last night showed great sportsmanship,” Meares said at this morning’s press conference.
“It would have been very difficult to be beaten in front of her home crowd.
“But her reaction (towards me) happened so promptly afterwards that I know it was genuine.
“It was a private moment between the two of us that broke down the issue of being tentative towards each other because of the media hype leading up to the Games.”
Meares, who won silver behind Pendleton’s gold in the sprint four years earlier in Beijing, went into last night’s final as the underdog after an uncharacteristically poor performance in the keirin four days earlier, and also as the second fastest qualifier for the event.
But she said her effort in just being beaten by the barest possible margin in the first heat had given her the psychological edge she needed to overwhelm her in the second heat.
“I was calm,” Meares said. “I thought I had possibly won the first heat given how close it was, and I also knew we had collided and asked my coach Gary West if there was a chance of relegation.
“He said to me to just get back on the rollers because I had to beat her twice, anyway. But I said to him, ‘I can do this,’ that first ride had given me huge confidence.
“I knew the feeling I had in my legs meant I could either hold her off or run her down again.”
That Meares sprinted to a sensational gold medal victory is history, and one she labelled the “sweetest and most incredible victory of my career.”