Anna Meares

Travels from: South Australia

One of our greatest ever cyclists

Categories: Inspirational, Motivational Speakers, Olympians, Sports Heroes

Full Presenter Profile & Bio

Born in Blackwater in Central Queensland in 1983 and living in the small coal mining town of Middlemount, Anna is the youngest of four children in the Meares family. Her siblings are Scott, Tracey and Kerrie. Mum (Marilyn Meares) didn't want to take four kids to four different sports and so the family rule was that the oldest got to choose and the younger ones had to follow. I went through sports like Karate, BMX, Triathlon, Tennis, Swimming until Kerrie and I were watching the 1994 Commonwealth Games on TV. We saw Kathy Watt competing and we were most interested in the speed of the velodrome; Track cycling.

Dad (Anthony Meares) found the nearest cycling club through the yellow pages and that was in Mackay 300km from our home. He drove us in one weekend and we loved it. So for 2 years rotating shifts Mum and Dad would pick Kerrie and me up from School of a Friday afternoon, drive the 300km for us to race Friday night and Sunday morning before driving 300km home in time for school on Monday morning. A very big sacrifice on the part of our parents and a great commitment to take seriously what their 11 and 12 year old daughters wanted to do.

After 2 years they moved into Rockhampton where Anna found her first coach in Ken Tucker and Kerrie who was extremely successful from a very young age had received a QAS (Queensand Academy of Sport) and AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) scholarship and by 16 she was off to live and train in Adelaide.

2002 was her first year in the senior ranks and won a bronze medal at the Manchester Commonwealth Games all the while Kerrie dominated winning Gold in both the Sprint and 500m Time Trial.  After the Games an AIS scholarship was offered to Anna by Martin Barras the Australian Institute of Sport Head Coach but not being ready to leave home she declined. In 2003 Anna won her first Senior medal, a silver in the world Keirin championship and that was it. She had to take up the offer of an AIS scholarship if she was to further her career as an international Sprint cyclist.

2004 was the first year in the AIS under the coaching of Martin Barras. It was one of the most successful years of her career. She won Silver in the Mexico World cup, losing by a mere few thousandths of a second. She followed her first world cup medal with Silver in the World Titles in Melbourne in May 2004 and winning the Gold medal in the 500m Time Trial. She qualified for the Athens Olympic Games and was headed for her first Olympic Team representation. In Athens at the age of 20 Anna became the youngest Australian female track cyclist and the first female to represent Australia on the track to win Olympic Gold. In doing so she broke the World and Olympic record riding a time of 33.952 seconds becoming the first woman in history to break the 34second barrier for the 500m distance. She followed up with winning the bronze medal in the Individual Sprint a few days later

Anna's achievements in Athens saw her awarded with the Order of Australia Medal. A very great honour. She continued to show improvement in 2005 winning world championship silver in the 500m Time Trial and Bronze in the Individual Sprint and followed the next season in 2006 by winning World championship silver in the 500m Time Trial after securing the first Gold medal won by an Australian at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in a new Commonwealth Record over the 500m Time Trial. There she also won a silver medal in the Individual sprint.

2007 was another great year for Anna breaking her own world record that she set at the Athens Olympics twice. First at the beginning of the season at the Sydney World Cup and finally at the World Championships in Majorca Spain riding a time of 33.588 seconds. At the world Championship meet Anna won one Gold and three gold medals, 4 of the 6 medals won by the Australian Cycling team.

Preparation for the Beijing Olympics began 16 months out in May 2007. Anna was leading the points qualification until she suffered a fall at the third round of the World Cup circuit in Los Angeles in January 2008, 7 months out from the Olympics. She fractured her c2 vertebra (second down from the scull), dislocated her right shoulder, suffered torn ligaments and tendons, a heavily bruised right hip and skin abrasions as a result of skin sliding on wood when she crashed at 65km/h. She was a mere 2mm from needing the support of a respirator to breathe for the rest of her life. But this major set back didn't deter her from her dream to ride in Beijing. She was back on the bike just 10 days after her fall, went through relentless rehab and with the points she had secured up to her crash managed to just qualify a spot for Australia at the games. One of only 12. She then had to prove she was fit to fill the spot just 4.5 months after she fell and she did. She went on to win a Silver medal in the Women's Individual Sprint and touched the hearts of many Australians by the story of her struggle to comeback.

After a very intense 2007/2008 season Anna decided it was high time to have a break and so took the remainder of the year 2008 off and spent time with her family and husband before returning to Adelaide and training at the AIS. 2009 Saw many changes for Anna including a change of Coach. Martin Barras moved to become the Australian Women's road coach while Gary West took over the Australian Sprint Coaching role. Three months later she was selected in the national team competing at the Poland World Championships. She rode her pet event the 500m time trial and won a silver medal behind Simona Krupekaite who broke the World record set by Anna in 2007 setting the mark at 33.29 seconds. She then teamed up wth Kaarle McCulloch to win the World Championship in the team sprint over the heavily backed British pairing of Shanaze Reade and Victoria Pendleton who had won the event since it was introduced for women in 2007.

2009 Ended on a high note and 2010 seemed to be rolling on from the same point of success for of the 17 races Anna lined up in in the 2010/2011 season, she was on the podium 16 times and won 15 of those 16 podiums including a triple Gold crown at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games where she also claimed a Commonwealth Record in the 200m Time Trial and with her team mate Kaarle McCulloch in the Team Sprint, a new event on the Commonwealth Games calendar for the Track women sprinters.

Anna had continued success on the world cup circuit claiming three gold in Melbourne in the Time Trial, Keirin and Individual Sprint defeating for the first time in 5 years her arch rival and 4 x consecutive World Sprint Champion Victoria Pendleton of Great Britain. Anna then backed up this win with Gold in the Sprint and Team Sprint in Manchester at the final world cup of the season which led her into the 2011 World Titles in Appledorn, Holland on a high.

These World Titles would be the first time in Anna's career she would sit out her favoured event the 500m Time Trial in order to put her best foot forward in the Olympic events that followed the time trial on the program. It was a gamble that paid off. Day 2, the now well drilled team of Anna and her team mate Kaarle McCulloch lined up to see if they could win a third World Title Crown in a row in the Team Sprint. They faced off against Great Britain in the final and came away victors creating a slice of history for the young event. Days 3 and 4 saw the sprint event in action and after such a successful season Anna stood tall for the very first time on the dias in the Individual Sprint. An achievement she had been chasing for 10 years at the elite level, seeing it come to fruition saw tears brought to her eyes as the Australian flag rose in the Netherlands. After such a successful campaign Anna lined up in the final event the Keirin to again attempt a maiden World Title crown for this event. The form was certainly there, would the legs and tactics shine through when she needed it most? A crash 1.5 laps from the finish threatened to bring the dream crashing down but Anna held her nerve and held off the charge  from Clara Sanchez of France and Olga Panarina of Belarus to take the Gold medal making it a triple gold medal haul for Meares equalling the fetes of only one other woman in the history of the sport, Victoria Pendleton who won 3 gold in the 2007 World Titles in Majorca Spain.  

2012 and the Olympic Games in London beckoned.  But again like all Dreams, there are many steps, processes and goals to get through first to ensure a smooth path the that final destination. The Astana World Cup, Australian Track Nationals, London World Cup and the Melbourne World Championships are amongst the daily training routines and plans ahead for Anna.  Stay tuned to see what this hard working spirited Aussie can achieve.

Anna Meares - Sports Heroes

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