17 April 2007

Victoria Rules...

Pendleton Sets Sights On Beijing

Interview: Victoria Pendleton By Piers Newbery

Triple world champion Victoria Pendleton is confident Team GB have not peaked with their stunning success at last week's World Track Cycling Championships in Mallorca.

Great Britain topped the medal table with seven golds, two silvers and two bronzes, with Pendleton winning the team and individual sprints and the keirin.

"I feel that we have got an advantage on the field and even if they were to try and emulate us I think it would be quite a hard task," says Pendleton.

"I'm not saying it's impossible but as a sport we've really stepped forward in terms of the equipment we use, aerodynamic studies, support staff, sport psychology - every aspect has been carefully monitored and developed.

"To be honest, touch wood, it's a hard act to follow."

The rest of British sport may also struggle to keep up with our cyclists, as, 16 months away from the Beijing Olympics, the velodrome increasingly looks like being Britain's banker for medals.

"We strive to win medals, and gold medals," she says. "Anything less isn't really good enough.

"When certain members of the team are succeeding it does inspire you. There's a whole new level of how to train because you want to achieve what they achieved.
"I train with the best track team in the world - how lucky am I? I'm in the best possible position to achieve the most that I can."

The 26-year-old from Stotfold admits she finds it "bizarre" that she is now a leading light of Team GB, and the feet-on-the-ground attitude shows no sign of changing despite last week's success.

"I was going out to win medals - I wanted to win a medal - so to come back with three is a big surprise," says Pendleton.

"It's quite surreal, it doesn't really feel like it happened now I'm back home in my flat and everything's quiet and normal."
Pendleton is glowing in her endorsement of everyone involved in British track cycling, and particularly the role of the English Institute of Sport (EIS).

It is not often that an athlete calls back after an interview is finished to further sing the praises of one of the country's more low-key sporting bodies.

Along with her coach, ex-German sprinter and multiple world champion Jan van Eijden, Pendleton cites the strength and conditioning training, nutritional advice and video analysis provided by the EIS as a huge influence on her success.

Another more intriguing factor is the work done behind the scenes by the likes of former Great Britain star Chris Boardman in developing new equipment.

"He tells us that he's producing something amazing but we won't actually know about it until it's there in front of us," says Pendleton. "It's too risky.
"But we know that when it comes to the day of the Olympics we will be provided with the best equipment we could dream of having.

"We know it's going to be developed in secret, behind closed doors... it's quite exciting really."

So Boardman is like Q from the Bond films? "Exactly!" she says. "That's what Chris Boardman is to cycling."

The one subject that can take the shine off Pendleton's sunny mood is the decision of the International Olympic Committee to remove two disciplines from the Beijing track schedule because of the introduction of two BMX events.

"At the very best, I've got the chance of competing in one Olympic event," she says. "Only one.
"So even if I was to produce the best performance of my life and win one Olympic gold medal, how am I supposed to compete with swimmers who can win several?"

Pendleton describes the IOC decision as "devastating", adding: "In track cycling there's not that many medals to be won, and especially being female.

"There are only three women's track titles to be won and the men have seven. For an entire sport it just seems ridiculous, it seems unfair.

"If there was a keirin and a team sprint and a 500m, believe me I'd be going out there to get all four.

"I think having the opportunity to win multiple medals would be amazing and I feel quite upset that I'll never have that opportunity, even if I was in the best form of my life.

"I'm all for BMX becoming a performance sport - I just wish I could ride a BMX bike because I might give that a whirl!"

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the IOC's decision, Pendleton knows she has just one shot at Olympic gold in the individual sprint - at least until London 2012.

"I hope to still be going in 2012," says Pendleton, who will be 32.

"It's an amazing, amazing opportunity to be in an Olympics in your home country. I just really hope that I'm still going."

Story from BBC SPORT:

Published: 2007/04/03 18:47:06 GMT


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