Pendleton ready to take on friend turned foe
''There's no animosity on my behalf towards her,'' Britain's sprint queen Victoria Pendleton said yesterday while preparing to meet her Australian nemesis at the World Track Championships in Melbourne next week. Photo: Getty
FROM the mouth of her fiercest rival, these were the words Anna Meares would have least expected.
''There's no animosity on my behalf towards her,'' Britain's sprint queen Victoria Pendleton said yesterday while preparing to meet her Australian nemesis at the World Track Championships in Melbourne next week.
''And I'm really sad to think that she might genuinely feel that way towards me. It's kind of happened and I don't even know how.''
Meares and Pendleton have won an Olympic gold medal each, have eight world titles each and are destined for a final bout at the London Olympics before the British champion retires.
In recent years, both women have also observed, and taken turns to fuel, the rather juicy subplot of their relationship.
Before yesterday, Pendleton's most recent public comments about Meares contained reflections on how, in the sprint final at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, she ''could have settled for just beating her, but I wanted to humiliate her''.
Pendleton's desire to inflict payback on the Australian dated back to a world cup race in 2006 when the pair met in a keirin that Meares attacked so aggressively - virtually eliminating Pendleton by knocking her from her bike - that she was subsequently moved to apologise.
Describing to the Herald, in December 2010, Pendleton's frostiness since that incident in Bordeaux, France, Meares said: ''She didn't want to see me then, let alone talk to me … That's more or less the way it has been since.''
This made Pendleton's fond reminiscence yesterday about how the pair had shared ''a couple of beers'' after a world titles meet in Stuttgart in 2003 all the more intriguing. Somehow, from this jovial place, Pendleton said, they had become the best of enemies.
Still, while on the one hand Pendleton questioned whether her rivalry with Meares had been overblown by the press, the British champion didn't fail to provide plenty to thicken the plot.
''Anna and I are very different riders,'' she said.
''She's someone who likes to push the rules and I definitely don't. But there's nothing wrong with that, it's just slightly different styles and how we approach the same event.''
Revisiting the feisty keirin they raced in France six years ago, Pendleton said: ''She apologised for doing it afterwards, saying: 'I'm sorry I hooked you … I didn't mean it to be dangerous' and I was like: 'Well, OK then. I wouldn't do it, you might do it, but I wouldn't do it.'
''I haven't come from a background of sprinting where it's all kind of contact and all that lot. So we've got very different backgrounds in sprinting and that's all it is really. We're just really different.
''I've heard her make some comments about how she dislikes me or I dislike her, and I'm not really entirely sure where it's come from, because we used to be quite good pals.''
Asked whether she could imagine sitting down to enjoy another beer with Meares, at least after the Olympics were over, Pendleton said she hoped so. Her forecast, however, was less optimistic.
''I don't think she'd want to have one with me,'' she said.
''Which is sad, because at the end of the day this isn't war, this is sport. And I respect her achievements and I hope that she respects mine.
''I don't want to have any bitter rivalries. Rivalries are good, bitter ones are not so good.''
From: Sydney Morning Herald