Anna Meares‘ relationship with track cycling began innocently enough with watching the Commonwealth Games on TV as a kid. It would end more than two decades later with her being the first Australian athlete to ever medal in four consecutive Olympic Games. Today she joins Bobby & Jens to discuss her incredible career, including some behind-the-scenes details on her greatest rivalry, with Victoria Pendleton.
That Anna would be drawn to this less known discipline of cycling isn’t much of a surprise given her upbringing with sports. One of four siblings, her oldest brother always got to choose the sports the four of them would play, lest her parents have to take kids to four different sports. But from a wide range of athletic pursuits including karate, swimming, and cross country, “It was the bikes that really drew us all in,” she says. However, the discipline that captured her heart, track, was probably the most difficult to get started in, given that the nearest velodrome was 250 kilometers away, some three hours of driving on rugged country roads. But Anna’s parents took her and her sister anyway. She would stay in the sport for 22 years from that first day onward. “I just fell in love with it,” she says.
The sport would take her to plenty of high points, including Olympic gold medals and competing in the Commonwealth Games multiple times with her sister Kerrie, who also caught the track bug. But track cycling has also tested her greatly, including during a terrible crash in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics that left her with a broken neck, the kind of crash that makes you reconsider competition and your life’s ambitions. But she ultimately decided her passion was with the sport and worked her way back and made the Olympic team that year, making the silver she earned there perhaps the sweetest result in a decorated career that yielded plenty of gold.
And, of course, you don’t make it to the top of a sport without developing rivalries. Anna reveals how charged things were around the 2012 London Games in anticipation of her race with British track star Victoria Pendleton, and the incredible lengths she and her coaches went on to beat the defending sprint Olympic gold medalist.
Now retired after representing Australia in the 2016 Olympic Games and serving as the opening ceremony flag bearer, she has been enjoying life in Adelaide as the mother of a 16-month-old.
“Bobby & Jens” is a weekly VeloNews podcast brought to you by Zwift. It stars former pros Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt and features conversations with top athletes, coaches, emerging stars, and other newsmakers from the wide world of cycling. A new episode drops every Friday. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.