Victoria Pendleton bows out with head held high despite missing out on gold to great rival Anna Meares

 

So near but so far: Vicky Pendleton’s final race ended in disappointment as she was forced to settle for silver when longstanding nemesis Anna Meares of Australia defeated her for one last time in the individual sprint.

Had Pendleton won, the defending Olymnpic champion would have become Britain’s first ever woman athlete to win three Olympic gold medals.

But after a relegation in the first heat of three saw Pendleton fall one round behind Meares, and in the second the Australian then strongly outpowered the Briton to regain the Olympic title she had lost to Pendleton back in Beijing. Meanwhile China’s Guo Shuang repeated her bronze from the 2008 Games by beating Germanys’ Kristina Vogel.

The relegation for Pendleton was particularly painful because it was not the first she has suffered in these Games. That came when she was disqualified together with Jess Varnish in the women’s team sprint on Thursday, the one track race where Britain has not taken any medals of any colour in 2012.

Winning the Keirin on Friday for Olympic gold medal number two of her career seemed to put paid to that setback and Pendleton, oozing confidence, seemed on track for a third before retiriing.

However the relegation from the individual sprint final’s  first round - which, to make matters worse, she had won a few minutes earlier by a thousandth of a second over Meares, but a technical fault saw that victory go up in smoke - put Pendleton on the back foot. In round two Meares was clearly superior, dodging past Pendleton before outpowering the Briton, who had all but thrown in the towel by the last lap, to claim a key gold for Australia. 

Fighting back the tears, Pendleton rode round and round the velodrome, repeatedly saluting the crowd, who roared her name in response in this most emotional of send-offs.

There is no doubting that Pendleton, who smiled radiantly at the cameras as she clutched her Olympic silver medal, leaves a huge gap.The individual sprint has virtually been Pendleton’s private property ever since 2005 when she won her first World Championships gold. Since then she has netted Olympic gold in Beijing, and racked up no less than six World’s titles in this discipline alone, as well as a silver and a bronze.

But throughout it all, Meares has been the rival who has dogged the 31-year-old’s wheeltracks the most persistently. After first crossing swords at the Olympic kilometre time in 2004, which Meares won, and accusing her of “liking to push the rules” in 2006, at 2008 in Beijing, Pendleton inflicted her greatest defeat on Meares beating her in two straight rounds. 

Given they have 19 World titles and three Olympic golds between them prior to today it was almost, but not quite inevitable, that Pendleton and Meares would once again come head to head in the final. 

Having set the fastest time and Olympic record in the women’s 200 metre sprint qualifiers, motored through her round of 32 and last-16 races and disposed of quarter-finalist Olga Panarina of Belarus in two straight rounds of a possible three on Monday,  Pendleton started the last segment of her path to silver by equally efficiently dispatching Germany’s Kristina Vogel in the semi-finals.

Meares, meanwhile, was also making her way to the top, dipping underneath the old Olympic record in the qualifiers, then seeing off Guo Shuang - her semi-final rival - in two hotly disputed rounds. 

The final duel, though, was the most eagerly awaited. And if Pendleton could not quite take the top award in her last ever race, there can be no doubt that with a gold and silver in her possession from London’s Games, not to mention a career in which she has been almost unrivalled in all sprinting disciplines, the 31-year-old  form Hertfordshire can leave the sport with her head very high indeed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower