Why I want Victoria Pendleton to win the Olympic women’s sprint
I wouldn’t say I was an enormous fan of track cycling, but it can definitely hit the heights every now and again. I support Britain’s male cyclists, but I don’t know them quite so well. Victoria Pendleton’s a different matter and this means that I give a toss. When you give a toss, sport’s a great deal more exciting.
I’m not saying I know her personally, although I think we cycle the same roads from time to time. It’s more that she’s the kind of person it’s easy to get to know through the media.
Bradley Wiggins isn’t media trained and there’s a similarly unguarded nature to Pendleton interviews. It makes her infinitely more likeable. Somehow she’s both frighteningly fragile and astonishingly resilient at the same time. She’s emotional and tetchy and despairing and charming and when most sports are chock full of complete dicks who seem too stupid to experience even a single emotion, that’s priceless.
Team GB psychiatrist, Steve Peters, summed up his first meeting with her thus:
“Vicky had no self-confidence. She had no way of controlling impulsive thinking. She had no way of containing emotion. She couldn’t communicate well. She wasn’t assertive. The list went on and on.”
I can get behind someone like that.
If you want to know more about her before she competes in the Olympic women’s sprint semi-final (4pm) and hopefully the final (5.26pm) then this 2008 Guardian interview with Donald McRae is something of a classic.
That interview also gave rise to a BBC documentary detailing the fallout resulting from her relationship with her coach, Scott Gardner. Basically, he got the boot, the team fell apart and Vicky’s cycling went to shit, so they brought him back again. The story loses a bit of something the way I tell it.
Anyway, all of this is why I want Victoria Pendleton to win the Olympic women’s sprint. I’ll be gutted if she doesn’t, but that’s the way it is. You have to invest something and risk disappointment in order to fully enjoy things when they do go well.