BEHIND every great story is love — and that is exactly what Victoria Pendleton is using to inspire herself to gold in London this summer.
The 31-year-old sprint cyclist is to retire from the sport after the Games and marry fiancé Scott Gardner — part of the team that has made her the greatest female track star of all time.
But in a BBC Documentary — Victoria Pendleton: Cycling’s Golden Girl — she revealed the pain her relationship with Gardner caused when it was revealed on the day she won gold in Beijing four years ago.
“The gold medal should have been the happiest day of my entire life and it just wasn’t — then it just completely felt like the saddest day in my entire life,” she said. “Everyone was so angry with us.
“Scott and I had fallen in love, but people said it was so unprofessional, a disgrace and that we had betrayed everybody.”
As a result of their relationship being made public, Gardner had to leave the team, with British cycling coach Shane Sutton describing what had been left behind as ‘carnage’.
Although Gardner was invited back on to the team in 2011, the aftermath of that day in China in 2008 has made Pendleton — already determined to go out on a high — even more focused on stepping to the top of the London Velodrome podium and receiving another gold medal.
Pendleton, who described herself as ‘forever’ in Gardner’s debt for what he had to go through, said: “He’s given up everything to be with me and that means a lot, which is why I have to do him proud at the London Olympics as well and prove it was not in vain or for no reason, but that it was all worth it.”
London will be the third time Pendleton has represented Britain at an Olympics, but it could have all been so different after a disappointing Games debut in Athens.
After finishing sixth in the time trial and ninth in the sprint, Pendleton was ready to quit.
“I didn’t want to do it ever again because I didn’t want to be mediocre at it, I wanted to be really good at it,” she said.
And it was words of encouragement from her father Max — who is still a key organiser of the Mildenhall Cycling Rally — to encourage her to be as good as she could be that helped her carry on.
“If I hadn’t gone to Athens and failed, it wouldn’t have made me make the change in my life and mental approach to be the best,” she added.
Then, four years later in Beijing as Britain dominated the cycling world, she struck gold.
“When I crossed the line it was pure relief,” she said. “I didn’t feel anything — I felt almost numb.”
With one gold under her belt, the pressure would surely be less on Pendleton, but with the home crowd waiting with baited breath to see how she does, she is determined not to let anyone down — including herself.
“The only thing that matters to me is doing well in London,” she said. “I want it to be the most amazing exit from the sport.”
n You can still view the BBC’s documentary about Victoria Pendleton via the BBC IPlayer.
Date of birth: 24/09/1980
Mildenhall CC gold member
Events: Women’s sprint, women’s team sprint
Olympic past: Women’s sprint gold (2008), time trial sixth (2004), women’s sprint ninth (2004)
Crowning glory: Olympic gold in Beijing 2008
Thursday, August 2
Women’s Team Sprint
Sunday, August 5
Should have a golden ending to a glittering career
Anything short of gold would be major disappointment
Women’s sprint: Commonwealth champion Anna Meares (Australia)
Team sprint: World record holders Germany