LONDON (AFP) — British cycling’s “Queen Victoria” Pendleton abdicated her throne Tuesday — and she was so happy to quit the sport, she cried tears of happiness.
Pendleton had indicated the Olympics would be her final competition and, after losing her sprint title to Australian rival Anna Meares, she was in no mood to change her mind.
“These tears, everyone says ‘are you really, really sad you lost?’ I’m like no, I’m just so happy it’s over,” Pendleton said. “Yes, it is over, without a doubt. It would be my worst nightmare right now to have to relive the last week of my life, it seriously would.
“Just hanging around, waiting, waiting for the next track session, the expectation of the team, it’s just too much.”
Pendleton won keirin gold on Friday, but was disqualified from the team sprint, failing in her bid to become the first British woman to win three Olympic titles. But at the end of her career, there was only relief.
“I’m so relieved you can’t even imagine. It’s been the hardest four years of my entire life, coming in as Olympic champion and then realizing you’ve got a home Games to live up to,” she said. “I’m disappointed obviously I didn’t win two golds, that would have been perfect, but I’m just overwhelmed with relief right now that I don’t have to ever go through that ever again.
“Just being here and just being part of this atmosphere is something I will never forget. You wouldn’t be able to forget it — it’s such a landmark in my life, it’s probably the most significant thing that’s ever happened to me, so special.”
Before speaking to reporters, Pendleton hugged her father at trackside and said she wanted to thank her family.
“I just hadn’t seen my dad in quite a few months… I just wanted to make sure they (her family) could understand how much I appreciate what they’ve done,” she said.
Pendleton and Meares have been fierce rivals, but the beaten rider had nothing but praise for her conqueror.
“We had a good hug down there afterwards,” said Pendleton. “She did a fantastic job, she’s a fantastic competitor, a very worthy winner and an amazing rival over the years.”
Meanwhile, Meares said she was glad she’d defeated Pendleton, above all her competitors, in the final.
“She’s a champion, arguably one of the best sprinters of all time, and definitely one of the best in the modern sprinting era,” Meares said. “I wanted the chance to race Vicky in the final, because I know that she’s the best and I wanted to be the best.”
Meares, who won 2-0 in the best-of-three final, went up 1-0 after officials relegated Pendleton for straying off-line.
Watching video images of her second relegation of the Games, following the same decision for an irregular changeover in the team sprint, was not Pendleton’s priority.
“I won’t bother,” she said. “I’m starting a new life now.”