Aus­tralia’s track queen Meares re­tires

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Aus­tralia’s track cy­cling queen Anna Meares an­nounced her re­tire­ment yes­ter­day, two months after grab­bing her sixth Olympic medal to cap a ca­reer de­fined by courage and sac­ri­fice. The twice Olympic cham­pion, who won 11 world ti­tles and bore her na­tion’s flag at Rio, mulled bow­ing out at the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games in her home state of Queens­land but said the phys­i­cal toll ex­tracted by 22 years of com­pe­ti­tion had helped make up her mind.

Meares re­vealed she had taken six cor­ti­sone in­jec­tions in her spine just to get to Rio where she strug­gled in the de­fence of her sprint ti­tle but took the keirin bronze.

“Hav­ing had to change tack for six months lead­ing into it and to achieve the things I have, I feel sat­is­fied and happy to step aside from the sport and try some­thing new and dif­fer­ent,” the 33-year-old told lo­cal broad­caster Chan­nel Nine.

“I have been able to achieve so many won­der­ful things, more than most. I am the most suc­cess­ful for women in my sport in the field.” A coal miner’s daugh­ter raised in a re­mote Queens­land town, Meares spent much of her child­hood in the back seat of her par­ents’ car, driv­ing some 250 km to reach the near­est velo­drome for train­ing.

She emerged as a 20-year-old sen­sa­tion in 2004, storm­ing to the 500 me­tres time trial gold in world record time at the Athens Games, months after win­ning the world ti­tle at her home cham­pi­onships in Melbourne. Her rep­u­ta­tion for tough­ness was forged four years later, how­ever, when she broke her neck, dis­lo­cated her shoul­der and tore lig­a­ments in a sick­en­ing crash at a World Cup event seven months be­fore the Beijing Olympics. Wheel­chair-bound and with her neck in a brace, Meares told a stunned me­dia con­fer­ence she in­tended to com­pete at Beijing. Less than two weeks later, she was back on her bike, start­ing an in­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion that would cul­mi­nate in a sprint sil­ver be­hind Vic­to­ria Pendle­ton.

Her en­thralling ri­valry with the Bri­tish great raised the pro­file of track cy­cling, of­fer­ing a rare nar­ra­tive of clean com­pe­ti­tion, even as a seem­ingly end­less string of dop­ing scan­dals on the men’s pro tour blighted the sport over­all. Meares won their dra­matic re­play of the sprint fi­nal at London, the pair’s teary em­brace after the duel one of the Games’ most mem­o­rable mo­ments.

A new gen­er­a­tion of rid­ers emerged to chal­lenge Meares in the next Olympic cy­cle, but she re­mained at the pin­na­cle in her thir­ties, clinching her third keirin world ti­tle at Yve­lines last year. She said she would re­main in­volved in Aus­tralian cy­cling in men­tor­ing roles, as the na­tional team strives to re­group for Tokyo after a dis­ap­point­ing campaign in Rio. “It is hard to close this chap­ter, be­cause it is a bloody big one,” she said. “But I am re­ally ex­cited about the doors open­ing in to the next chap­ter of my life.”

Anna Meares

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