Every night for the last week or so I’ve fallen asleep thinking of Anna Meares, one of Australia’s finest ever track cyclists.
These days, the majority of sports biographies are written by shadow writers. Whenever the average syllable count gets above about 1.3 it’s a dead giveaway that the sports star in question almost certainly wasn’t the one at the keyboard. There’s nothing especially wrong with this, except that it’s often hard to gain a true sense of the athlete’s personality as it’s not written in their own words.
Not in this case. It’s apparent almost immediately that Anna, a coal miner’s daughter, must have been directly involved in the penning of hers. It’s not flowery. It’s not convoluted. It has a dearth of waffle and an abundance of simple, candid insights into her life on and off the velodrome boards. A World and Olympic Champion in 2004, at the age of just 19, it explores her relationships with her talented older sister Kerrie, her lifelong coach Marv, hubby Mark, the career and potentially life-threatening crash at a World Cup race in Los Angeles in 2008 that saw her fracture her C2 vertabra and, of course, the media-fueled rivalry with Victoria Pendelton which began in Bordeux in 2006 and reached its climax 12 months ago in London.
A gold-laden peloton of Aussie cycling’s finest get a mention too, from Kenrick Tucker and Ben Kersten, to Kate Bates and Sara Carrigan. Plus plenty of others.
One of my favourite stories surrounds her two sub-34 second world records in 2006 – the first quite mistakenly ridden on a 45-tooth chainring, which both Meares and her coach thought was the usual 44. They only discovered the error months later, so figuring it worked pretty well the last time, they stuck with it – and Meares shredded nearly half a second off her own world record at the Worlds in Spain!
This is no literary masterpiece. But who cares? Every Aussie sports fan should read this. Meares is a national cycling treasure.