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Dentist Houvenaghel wants to get teeth into gold

British team pursuiter is preparing to return to the dental field after she visits the podium in London

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LONDON (AFP) — Wendy Houvenaghel is preparing to return to her profession as a dentist — but only once she has helped Britain bid for Olympic gold in the inaugural women’s team pursuit event.

Houvenaghel, of Northern Ireland, became a full-time athlete at the late age of 31, won Olympic silver in the individual event at Beijing four years ago. Now with that event no longer part of the Olympic program, she is part of a world-beating squad that will be among the favorites for gold in the three-woman event on August 3-4.

The British squad, along with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, has been among the pace-setters in the 3,000-meter event in the lead-up to its Olympic debut. Houvenaghel warned that the British public could see them set some new world record times.

“It’s a relatively new event and we will be looking to raise the barrier as much as possible,” Houvenaghel said Monday. “We’ve been doing very well in training. We’re fully prepared and ready to compete.”

Houvenaghel, however, still has to confirm her place in the team on the day. Teams are allowed to use any three riders from a squad of four in both qualifying and the medals round, meaning even if she is used in qualifying she could be left out of an eventual medal round.

After the “disappointment” of missing out when Britain won gold at the world championships in Melbourne, where she won individual silver, Houvenaghel comes to London with fresh determination.

“What happened in Melbourne for the team was a great success. For me personally, it was a disappointment,” she said. “However it helped make me even more determined to go ahead and be the best I can be for this team.”

Whatever happens at the Games, the 37-year-old already knows her time could soon be up. Although she has made no decision on possible retirement, Houvenaghel has been preparing for her future by completing the required courses over the past five years to allow her to return to her profession.

“To keep your name on the dental register you have to complete continued professional development training courses,” she said. “It’s a profession that I will get involved in again.”

When it comes to giving personal treatment to troubled teammates, however, Houvenaghel draws the line.

“Not really!” she said when asked if she had solved any in-team toothache issues. “Although there have been a few situations where people have had wisdom teeth problems so I’ve been able to give them a little bit of advice. But I haven’t had any hands-on.”