Meares, Pendleton bury the cycling hatchet

14 May 2013

CYCLING - TRACK: One moment, Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton were two of the fiercest rivals at the Olympics - the next, they shared a mirror and chatted about weddings.

The track cycling legends have spoken emotionally about the aftermath of their last head-to-head competition, the sprint final at the London Games.

A concerted Australian campaign to find Pendleton's weakness paid off when Meares executed a perfect tactical move in the second heat to win the gold medal ride-off 2-0.

Pendleton went into retirement, while Meares is the top women's sprinter ahead of the Rio Games.

There was an intense focus on the pair leading up to the Games and they feel some of the media attention was tacky.

The moment Meares won, Pendleton broke the ice.

"It is the sweetest thing to see something unfold in front of you exactly how you planned it to happen," Meares said on the ABC's Australian Story.

Part two of the Meares feature screens on Monday night.

"I took her hand to shake it (immediately after the second heat) and she didn't let it go - she held it raised for the entire back straight.

"I thought 'what a gesture', for her to have just lost in front of such a parochial home crowd, to give that to me in that moment."

A few minutes later, Meares and Pendleton were in a room underneath the track, waiting for the medal ceremony to start.

"She whispered in my ear 'you're a champion, you deserve this' and that was when I completely broke down into tears myself," Meares said.

"It was almost like in an instant, that wall of ice and tentativeness we'd felt between each other was gone."

So instead of game faces, they put on lipstick and did their hair together for the medal ceremony.

"We talked about weddings, actually ... it was a really nice moment," Pendleton said.

"I always felt people wanted me to dislike her but, given half a chance, we'd probably have a lot in common.

"I don't know if she'd want to be my friend - it's been a hard few years.

"But I'd have to say without Anna Meares, I wouldn't have fulfilled my potential."

Meares added: "maybe in the future, when we're old and grey, we can sit down and look back on it and laugh," she said.

Pendleton dominated women's sprinting for several years, but the Australian track squad had a project called "Know The Enemy" that aimed to dethrone her.

Meares, her coach Gary West and men's sprinter Alex Bird combined to work on tactics.

Just before London, Meares and West came up with a tactic to force Pendleton to the front - the British star's weakness in a head-to-head sprint.

In the second heat at the Games, Meares executed the move and easily beat Pendleton for the gold medal.

"I knew instantly - as soon as she took that front position - this was my race," Meares said.

Roger Vaughan

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