Meares lured by Rio gold

Riding high: Anna Meares is all concentration at the London Olympics. She will ride on to the 2016 Games.
Riding high: Anna Meares is all concentration at the London Olympics. She will ride on to the 2016 Games.

UNSATISFIED by the most memorable of triumphs at the London Olympics three months ago, Anna Meares has committed to another four-year campaign.

The champion track cyclist's quest to win gold medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will begin in January.

After receiving the highest honour in Australian cycling - the Sir Hubert Opperman Medal - in Sydney on Friday night, Meares said she planned to spend November and December ''wearing trackies, gardening, and annoying my husband''. But by early in the new year, the Olympic sprint champion will be plotting a course designed to have her peaking again at the end of the next Olympic cycle.

With her British nemesis, Victoria Pendleton, now retired, Meares acknowledged she would return as the hunted rather than the hunter. But the Australian already has a fresh list of goals to challenge herself. That includes winning a record 11th world title to become the most successful female track cyclist ever, and rectifying a disastrous effort in the Olympic keirin event, a memory from London she says still ''kills'' her.

Meares, who first won Olympic gold as a 21-year-old in Athens, then claimed silver in Beijing in 2008 before defeating Pendleton to win gold in the individual sprint in London (she also won bronze in the team sprint), will be 33 by the Rio Olympics.

''I knew within a couple of weeks that I still have that desire, I still have that passion, and while that desire and passion is still there I want to follow up on it,'' Meares said after being judged the Australian cyclist of the year, the elite female track cyclist of the year and the people's choice cyclist of the year. I'm really excited because I wanted to go through to Rio. I just didn't want to make that call [straight after London] in case it wasn't the right feeling around those Olympic Games.''

Since returning to Australia and hitting the speaking circuit, Meares said she could not remember the precise moment she knew she wanted to do it all again. But she suspects it might have coincided with her husband, Mark, telling her that she needed to go out and expend some energy. She is doing that with the occasional karate class, and other activities, but nothing fulfils her like hitting the track.

''I've been running and walking to try to burn off some energy, and I've been dabbling in the gym a little bit,'' Meares said. ''Other than that I've been enjoying cycling in different scenes. So I'm going cyclo-cross riding with Mark, I'm going out on the mountain bike, which is totally different stimulus to what I'm used to.

''That will give me five months, which is quite a significant break for a sprinter, in particular. But I'll miss this year's worlds [world championships] obviously because of the length of break that I've have, so I won't actually be racing until this time next year through the world cup circuit … that will be a 10 or 11-month preparation for that next season.''

Meares plans to resume training with her Australian teammates and coach Gary West - whom she described at the awards night as ''the best coach I have ever had the privilege of working with'' - on January 2. Only last week, West sent his star pupil an email to say he was concerned she had lost too much muscle, and weight, during her sabbatical from the gym.

The decision to commit to elite competition for another four years has involved a serious discussion with her husband about their plans to have a family. Meares is passionate about having children but for now the couple's ''fairy son'' dog, Bruce, will have to suffice.

''It's something I'd love to do,'' she said. ''It's hard, though, when you're a woman and your body is your tool.''

This story Meares lured by Rio gold first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.