Snubs, insults and bitchiness – Australian cyclist Anna Meares told the inside story of her bitter feud with British golden girl Victoria Pendleton and her last showdown at the London Olympics for the first time.
Meares, who dethroned the local hero named "Queen Victoria" to win gold in the British's last race, has avoided the rivalry for years, claiming reports of deep-seated hostilities between the two are "just paper talks".
But in her newly published biography "Now", the two-time Olympic gold medalist reveals that the feud was indeed very real and ultimately led to Pendleton's fall.
Meares said she was insulted by Pendleton ahead of the London Games and insulted by the British media, leading to the successful completion of a secret three-year training campaign that the Australian and her team had called "Know Thy Enemy". .
Victoria Pendleton (pictured at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Germany in February) lost to Ms. Meares (right after her victory) on her home turf at the 2012 London Olympics
Victoria Pendleton (left) poses with her silver medal after being struck by bronze at the 2012 London Olympics by Australian Anna Meares (center) and Shuang Guo (right)
When Meares came to London for the 2012 Olympics, she was so focused on beating Pendleton that her team-mates feared the bitter rivals would be beaten if they unexpectedly crossed the paths in the sports village dining room.
According to Meares, the seeds for the feud were sown during a race at the 2006 World Cup in Bordeaux, France.
Trying to stop Pendleton from moving to the top of the pack, Meares' Pedal had hit the Englishwoman's wheel and she almost fell.
Meares was disqualified and tried to apologize after the race.
"To my surprise, she snaps at me," I'm not interested in anything you have to say, "Meares writes in the book.
Victoria Pendleton (left) with ex-husband Scott Gardner (right) competed against Anna Meares for years – with the couple forming a fierce rivalry
Anna Meares (picture left with her partner Nick Flyger) celebrated a remarkable comeback after a devastating crash in January 2008
"I try again and she repeats sharply:" I'm not interested. "
From that moment on, their relationship worsened, and sports journalists built the prospect of a meeting of the two in the women's sprint finale at the Beijing Olympics as the “grudge game of the century” of cycling.
But in January 2008, just seven months before the games started, this showdown seemed impossible after Meares was involved in a terrible crash during a race in Los Angeles.
Her neck was broken, her shoulder slipped and she had torn ligaments and tendons.
A doctor told her that it was a miracle that she was not a quadriplegic.
Anna Meares (left) celebrates her Olympic victory in London in 2012 together with Victoria Pendleton (right), who won silver
Anna Meares (picture left, with partner Nick Flyger, right, and her first child, Evelyn Bette Meares Flyger, center)
Incredibly, she trained on a stationary bike ten days later, made the Olympic team and defeated China's Guo Shuang in an epic competition in front of home crowd in the sprint semi-final before heading to Pendleton in the final.
The couple would meet again at the 2010 Melbourne World Championships, but it wasn't anything that happened on the track that made Meares angry, Pendleton told a local reporter.
"Everything has changed for me at this moment," said Meares.
Victoria was quoted as saying that she believed her biggest rival at the London Olympics was Guo Shuang, whom she described as the runner-up at the 2008 games.
In January 2008, Ms. Meares was involved in a terrible fall during a race in Los Angeles, in which she was seriously injured (picture).
Victoria Pendleton (pictured at London Men & # 39; s Fashion Week 2019) was praised in the British press for her photogenic appearances on the red carpet and for her cycling
& # 39; But I beat Guo in the Beijing semi-final before Victoria beat me for the gold medal. I couldn't believe what I was reading. I was upset and offended.
"I started to think," I don't care if you don't like me, and I understand if you don't respect me, but at least accept what I went through before Beijing. "
“I won this silver medal after breaking my neck during a crash in the race and went through rehab for months to get there.
"There couldn't have been a bigger slap in the face for me and she had made it public."
Meares and her team plunged into "Project Know Thy Enemy".
They watched and studied over 300 hours of Pendleton's race video and found that she preferred to drive from the rear position.
Anna Meares (pictured right) found out about her complicated rivalry with the British Victoria Pendleton
Victoria Pendleton (pictured) was revamped after her retirement from professional cycling
To counteract this, Meares kept practicing until she perfected the movement known as "track standing" – balancing the stationary bike until the opponent had no choice but to move forward – on the steepest part of the curve, where this was rare is made.
Meares became an expert on this step, but never used it in competition before London – not even in the semi-final defeat at the 2010 World Cup against Pendleton – so as not to shake her hand.
Meares & # 39; trainer Gary West recruited Australian male team member Alex Bird to embody Pendleton's style in hundreds of simulated races.
From then on, Meares and her team refrained from naming Pendleton – she was only known as "Alex".
Anna Meares (left) from Australia celebrates her win against Victoria Pendleton (right) at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the women's sprint track cycling final.
Anna Meares (pictured) was cruelly treated in the British press and called "the ugly daughter of a miner," she claimed
Meares arrived in London, ready to face Pendleton, but soon realized that she would take over an entire country that had made her photogenic rival prominent.
"In the run-up to London, I read a story from the UK about the rivalry titled" Broomstick Versus Lipstick, "" she said.
"The story described me as the miner's ugly daughter, who came to steal Queen Victoria's gold medal, a representation that I made personally.
"I've never been judged on my looks."
When she went through customs at Heathrow, she was greeted by the immigration officer, who then looked at her passport and said, "You are Victoria's rival."
When Meares said yes, he returned her papers and said, "Enjoy your silver."
After retiring from cycling, Victoria Pendleton (pictured) had a trendy makeover
Anna Meares (pictured) can be seen at the medal ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games after winning gold in front of local favorite Victoria Pendleton
Before the two met on the track, they almost resolved their differences in the dining hall of the sports village, Meares recalled.
“The Australian team was at one table and the British team at another and Victoria and I approached from different directions.
We carried our food on a tray and when we got closer none of us looked left or right or moved; We weren't ready to let the other pass first when we finally met.
"I could feel how my teammates thought:" Oh dear, what will happen here? "
Finally, we both took a step to the side and walked around each other without sharing a word or a look.
"When I think back, I can't believe how petty it was, but at that moment it didn't feel right to step back, not even a bit."
Anna Meares (pictured) takes part in the women's 500m time trial on the third day of the UCI Track Cycling World Championship on December 4, 2010 at Hisense Arena
Victoria Pendleton (pictured at the London Opera in January 2019) claimed that her biggest Olympic rival was Guo Shuang, who was actually beaten by Ms. Meares
When the two rivals met in the best of three sprint finals – Pendleton's last race before retirement – it was almost an anti-climax, the Briton was disqualified in race one and the Australian pulled the tactic perfectly around the gold medal in race two Win 2-0.
Pendleton earned Meares' admiration for taking her hand and lifting it across the entire length of her back immediately after the race.
The end of their rivalry was confirmed when they met at the Beijing Olympics four years later. Meares was a competitor in her closing event, Pendleton a commentator for the BBC.
"You really made me work hard," Meares said to her. "For this reason, I was as successful as before."
Pendleton replied, "It was epic. We've had the same thing. You're the only one who really knows what it's like to be me."
"We will always have this connection," said Meares. "It will never work."
Anna Meares (picture left, with partner Nick Flyger, right) deserves Ms. Pendleton's admiration after years of fierce competition
VICTORIA PENDLETON: OUT OF THE TRACK
Victoria Pendleton CBE made as many headlines from the track as it did on the track to give her the full title.
She will always be remembered as one of Team GB's most successful Olympic champions with two gold and silver medals in two games – 2008 and 2012 – before retiring shortly after London.
But she didn't stay out of the spotlight for long. Pendleton was registered for the 10th Strictly Come Dancing series in 2012 and was a partner of Brendan Cole to mark the seventh of the 14 participants. Her autobiography Between The Lines was also published in 2012.
The following year Pendleton married Scott Gardner – their relationship had previously caused problems because he was forced to leave his role as a sports scientist with the British cycling team that Pendleton went to Beijing in 2008. The couple separated in 2018.
After Pendelton stopped cycling, she turned to a larger saddle and was successful as a jockey. She made her competitive debut in August 2015 and won her first race the following March at Pacha Du Polder in Wincanton. A fortnight later, the couple joined fifth at Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. She later described it as the "greatest achievement of my life".
She has also featured TV coverage of the festival and has been featured in numerous magazines, making headlines again in 2018 when she had to leave Mount Everest due to serious health problems after suffering from lack of oxygen on the expedition.
Last year she talked about how the separation from her husband and the failed Everest climb led to depression and suicide.
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