Australians have known it for a while now, but a few weeks ago in Paris, Anna Meares confirmed it: she’s the greatest ever. Meares won gold in the world Keirin championships to claim her 11th Cycling World Championship. This means she has surpassed the previous record of 10 she jointly held with Frenchwoman, Felicia Ballanger, and stands alone as the greatest female cyclist to hop in the saddle.
Meares’ first World Championship came in 2004 in the 500m time trial when she was only 21 years of age. To reach her 11 World Championships, Meares has averaged one title a year to break her previously shared record. In an 11 year time span that not only contains the aforementioned 11 world championships, she also won an incredible 5 Olympic medals, two of which were Gold.
Throughout that time Meares has broken Australian records left, right and centre, but it was really her accident in 2008 that confirmed her status as a legend of Australian cycling. In January of that year she crashed in a World Cup event. She was stretchered off and it was later discovered she had fractured her C2 vertebrae, dislocated her right shoulder, and suffered numerous bruises, abrasions, torn ligaments and tendons. This was just seven months out from the Beijing Olympics. She was Australia’s sprint queen and the jewel in our Olympic cycling team crown. She’d won Gold and a Bronze in the previous Athens Olympics and the previous year had once again won the 500m time trial World Championships. It was a huge blow to Australia’s Olympic preparations, and the cycling team.
Fast forward seven months to Beijing. Anna Meares was standing on the podium with a silver medal around her neck after coming second to Britain’s Victoria Pendleton (who she would beat four years to later to claim the gold in London in the same event) in the individual sprint. It was the only medal Australia won in cycling at Beijing. Now seven years later, she is the most successful female track cyclist ever and at the age of 32 she is still flying, with Rio in her sights. The way she is going, this unstoppable workhorse has a real chance at taking down the overall record of 14 World Championships, held by Frenchman Arnaud Tournant. Watch this space!