London 2012: Anna Meares Takes Sprint Gold, Victoria Pendleton Classy in Defeat

Craig ChristopherAnalyst IAugust 8, 2012

Pendleton and Meares - firce rivals but respected opponents.
Pendleton and Meares - firce rivals but respected opponents.Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

One of the fiercest rivalries in world sport has played out its final chapter, as cycling sprint champions Australia’s Anna Meares and Great Britain’s Victoria Pendleton faced off for the final time at London 2012.

So big is this rivalry, that organisers rescheduled the competition to provide a fitting finale to the track cycling program—most likely they were expecting a British gold medal as the ultimate way to finish things off.

Pendleton has had the edge over Meares in big competition, and after announcing that London will be her cycling swansong, hopes were high for a fairy tale ending to her magnificent career.

To add a little spice to the mix, the British tabloids have been playing up the rivalry, unsurprisingly painting Pendleton as the hero and Meares as the villain.

Some went somewhat over the top, like the Mirror, bringing the pairs respective looks into the argument—comparing pin-up Pendleton as the “lipstick” to Meares “broomstick”.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Pendleton and Meares are not close pals. In the pin-up stakes, you can decide which one’s the broomstick and which one’s the lipstick.

Ahhh, the enlightened British press.

These two exceptional cyclists were always fated to contest the final, and they delivered a race worthy of that title.

Pendleton narrowly took the first round, by half the thickness of a tyre—one thousandth of a second—but was disqualified only minutes later as the British rider moved out of the sprinting lane rounding the home bend, giving Meares a 1-0 advantage.

Race Two was a more clear cut affair, as Meares passed Pendleton on the back straight and was never headed—the effects of a huge program perhaps finally taking it’s toll on the British champion.

For Meares, it completes her medal set in Olympic sprinting, complementing her Athens bronze and Beijing silver.

For Pendleton, there must be a slight tinge of disappointment that her final race didn’t end with gold, but with so many other highlights—including nine world championships and two Olympic gold medals—she still has a remarkable record to look back on.

Despite media reports of the depth and bitterness of their rivalry, there is still a healthy respect between the two.

It her final act on the world cycling stage, Pendleton proved her status as a true champion.

In her disappointment, and with all of the emotion surrounding her farewell, NineMSN reports Meares as saying:

"She gave me a hug and said that I deserved it, that I was a great champion.

"I just broke into tears - that was very, very kind."

Perhaps, now that the battle is over, they can move towards a friendship.