Interview with Anna Meares, Cycling

Australian Cycling Team

Olympic gold 2004, Commonwealth gold 2006, World Champion 500m Time Trial, 2007 and 2009.

Anna is competing in the 500m Time Trial, the Sprint and the Team Sprint at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The flying girls from the bush. Anna started competing at the age of 11. A bike was more or less the only way for her to get around her childhood home of Middlemount, a small Queensland coalmining town, so she got lots of practice. Then, in 1994, Kathy Watt won gold at the Commonwealth Games for the individual pursuit, an achievement that sparked a passion for cycling in both Anna and her older sister Kerrie, who is also an Australian and international cycling champion in her own right.

In common with so many other athletes, the girls had to overcome some basic obstacles in their early careers. To begin with, the nearest cycling track was at Mackay, so Friday night involved a 300km trip for the youngsters, returning in time for school on Monday morning. Fortunately, they didn’t have to cycle there and back – their parents drove. This constant support, along with that of her other siblings Scott and Tracey, is something Anna readily acknowledges:

“I learned what it was to be committed from my parents. It was a big thing for parents to take so seriously what their 11 and 12 year old daughters wanted to do. We also had incredible support from our older siblings who were never jealous of the time and money spent on Kerrie and me. Often when Mum and Dad offered to support them in something they turned it down saying that Kerrie and I could use it more. It is an amazing feeling to be the world champion or Olympic or Commonwealth champion, but to go home and feel so normal and so loved and so ‘just the little sister’ is pretty cool!”

Champagne moment. After a gold medal and a world record at Athens in 2004, Anna was awarded the Order of Australia – an occasion to make any Dad proud:“I turned around to see tears fill my father’s eyes. I wasn’t sure why he was so emotional about it. I had never in my 21 years of life seen the slightest bit of red tinge or tear in his eyes and I looked at him and realised then and there what it meant.”

Role model. Anna sees her place, and that of all female athletes, as inspirational to others:

“I can encourage young girls to be proud of their body no matter what shape it is, the fact that I need to be bigger in the butt and the legs to do what I do, to have curves and to have self esteem and confidence in my own skin is a great thing to be able to do. To show courage and drive for a passion and a dream to be strong and to believe in myself is a message I try to pass on any chance I get because I don’t think that is passed on to girls and women enough.”

And when she’s not racing, which other sports will Anna be watching at Delhi?

“Anything and everything.”

No doubt about it, Anna Meares really is a woman who loves her sport.