Victoria Pendleton, born 24 September, 1980; British track World Champion
Once described by her French Canadian coach as being unsuited for cycling; on meeting her, he said “You’re too skinny, too puny to be a sprint cyclist.”, Victoria Pendleton has gone onto win 3 world Championships, and is currently one of the world’s leading female track cyclists.
Born in Stotfold, Bedfordshire, her talent in cycling was first recognised by a national coach at the age of 16. However, before devoting her time to cycling full time she completed a degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne.
As a child, Victoria was interested in playing many sports, but without any particular excellence. However, her father Max (a keen cyclist himself) , noted her athletic prowess on the bike and also the desire to win – essential to make it to the top of any sport. Her father, played a key role in her early development, encouraging her to train and aspire for continual improvement. It is clear that Victoria appreciates the effort and support of her father, even if the early training was not always easy.
‘I didn’t love it some of the time. Some of the time I hated it and wanted to give up. But I’m so glad I didn’t, because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have now.’
Victoria began cycling full time in 2002, after finishing her degree. Her typical training regime includes two training sessions per day; one in the morning of 2-3 hours and another in the afternoon 2-5. After her first 2 years of full time training and top level competition, Victoria had become a realistic contender for the 2004 Olympics. However, as Victoria admitted, the stress of the occasion got to her and to her great disappointment under-performed at the Athens Olympics. Speaking in an interview to the Guardian she described the unique atmosphere of the Olympic village and the underlying stress that the athletes faced.
‘I was totally under-prepared to be in a competition at that level, psychologically and physically. I’d been basically thrown to the lions.’
At one stage she was so demotivated by the experience that she considered retiring from the sport. However, Victoria decided to persevere and with the benefit of experience and a more detached perspective went on to become world champion at the 2005 World Championships.
Life as a professional cyclist.
Despite being a triple world champion, Victoria does not exaggerate the glamour of being a pro cyclist. As she modestly states ‘My life seems quite dull – I ride around in circles’ Like any professional athlete, the lifestyle is intrinsic to success on the track. It means a careful diet, no alcohol and no late nights.
In a sport that is noted for masculinity and bulging muscles, Victoria perhaps makes an unexpected track champion. Her slimline athletic figure has helped glamorise a sport, not always noted for feminine qualities of beauty. For example, in a sport where competitors can become encouraged to goto obsessive lengths to improve performance (One thinks of Chris Boardman shaving his arms when going for the world hour record.), Victoria is one of the few seemingly happy to keep her long hair (despite the minor aerodynamic drag) – However, whatever image Victoria may portray off the track, nothing should detract from her dedication to the sport which enabled her to become a triple world champion in the 2007 World Championships.
In 2008, Victoria will be defending her world titles at the UCI world Championships before taking part in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This year the world championships will be held at Manchester – her local track.
2008 World Track Championships
Victoria Pendleton won 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal. She won gold in the individual sprint title (setting a new British record of 10.904secs) and also gold in the team sprint with Shanaze Reade. In the final event, the Keirin, Victoria narrowly missed out finishing in second place. Video at BBC
Off Track Career P
As well as gaining recognition on the track, Victoria has gained a high profile through numerous a couple of photo shoots. The first photo showed her in an attractive black dress on her bike. It was certainly a different perspective on a track cyclist, where tight fitting lycra and bulging muscles are more common. Speaking about the photo shoot, Victoria said:
“I knew when I did the shoot it would stir up opinion, people would be for or against, but I don’t regret the picture at all… Actually I was quite please with the picture, people could see what I am about, that I am not just a track cyclist.” (Daily Telegraph interview 26/03/08)
More recently, Victoria agreed to pose for the Guardian newspaper magazine in a shot reminiscent of a former photo of Lance Armstrong. – Wearing no clothes, but strategically taken.
It’s no surprise that at the 2008 World Championships, Victoria receive more media inquiries than all the other British Athletes put together.- Glamour, beauty and gold medals, an appealing combination.
2008 Beijing Olympics
In the Beijing Olympics, Victoria Pendleton won her first Olympic gold in the individual sprint.In the 2008 World Track Championships she was also first place in Sprint and also first in Team Sprint (with Shanaze Reade).
2009 / 2010Victoria continued her impressive run of Sprint Golds. She won sprint gold in World Championships in both 2009 and 2010. She also finished 2nd in the Kierin World Track Championships. In 2009, she was also awarded an MBE in the New Years’ honours list.
Victoria Pendleton 2012 London Olympics
Victoria Pendleton has said that London 2012 Olympics will be her final major track final. Changes to the Olympic schedule, mean she competed in three track sprint competitions – team sprint, Kierin and individual sprint. Pendleton told BBC Sport.
In the team sprint with Jess Varnish, the pair were relegated to 8th place after making an illegal changeover. It was unfortunate because they had just set a record time and would have qualified for the final
“We were probably just a bit too eager. It’s one of those things. “It was very unfortunate; it was a mistake made in a fraction of a second.”
In the Keiren, Pendleton won the gold medal after beating a challenge from Anna Meares and Guo of China. Lee of Hong Kong finished 3rd.
- Victoria Pendleton GBR 10.965 (final 250metres)
- Shuang Guo CHN
- Lee Wai Sze HKG
- Interview with Victoria Pendleton on Woman’s Hour at BBC (6mins)
- Quotes from Guardian interview with Victoria Pendleton
- Victoria Pendleton.co.uk including image gallery and palmeres
photo top: johnthescone from Sheffield
photo middle: Tim Redgrove (c)