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2013-07-16

British Track Cycling stars retire and open the way to the new generation

Six-time Olympic champion, Chris Hoy ended his career. Victoria Pendleton, London 2012 crowd pleaser, did the same

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Kenny Jason and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain compete in the Men's Team Sprint Track Cycling Qualifying on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Velodrome (Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Part of the Olympic programme since 1896, in Athens, Track Cycling has never been as hot a topic as it was in London 2012. After all, the hosts kept seven out of ten of the gold medals that were handed out. Three of such medals ended on display around the necks of two of the greatest names in British sport: crowd pleasers Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

Hoy was knighted after winning three gold medals in Beijing 2008. He had already won silver in Sydney 2000 and was awarded his first gold in Athens 2004 but in London 2012 he surpassed the feat of another British sport legend, rower Steve Redgrave. After winning titles at home in keirin and team sprint, Sir Chris Hoy became the greatest British Olympic champion in history with six gold medals.

In April, the Track Cycling star announced he was retiring at the age of 37, confirming his absence in the Rio 2016™ Olympic Games and opening the way to the new generation. “I ran out of the last drops of energy that I had. I came to London and I was successful but I didn´t realise how much it demanded from me. To keep on going for another year would have been too long. I don’t want to show up only to wave to the crowd and wear the equipment”, said the athlete that started in BMX when he was seven years old and was later ranked ninth in the world in this discipline.

Victoria Pendleton retired soon after the London Games at the age of 31. Gold in keirin and silver in sprint, an event she won in Beijing, she first visited Rio de Janeiro last March and she was charmed by the city that will host the next edition of the Olympic Games.

“Rio is absolutely beautiful. When I saw the city from up there on the plane I said ‘Wow, how pretty’. After spending some time in the city and witnessing how people enjoy living here, I started to have deep feelings for Rio de Janeiro, especially for Copacabana”, Pendleton said in an interview to rio2016.com website during the Laureus Award Ceremony, the “Oscars” of Sport, which took place in the Marvellous City for the first time – it will take place in Rio once again in 2014.

Pendleton of Great Britain reacts after winning the Silver Medal in the Women's Sprint Track Cycling Final (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

The former athlete also wanted to leave a message to all athletes, especially Brazilians who have a chance of competing in the Rio 2016™ Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Once the Games are here, the supporters will feel the strength of the sport. The Olympic Games are a powerful and positive competition. Representing my country in London was my greatest achievement in life. I was always happy. Being so successful at home is probably the best thing that happened in my life and that’s why I tell all Brazilian athletes: train a lot, do everything in order to represent your country at home because, just like me, you’ll say it’s the best experience of your lives”, Pendleton said.

Wellyda Rodrigues is the greatest new athlete in Brazilian Cycling

Brazilian Cycling’s main discovery, Wellyda Rodrigues gave up guitar and singing lessons in her home town in order to dedicate herself to sport. Originally from Pereira Barreto in the state of São Paulo, in the beginning of 2012 she moved to Americana where she trains in one of two Cycling Centres of Excellence – the other is located in Iracemápolis, also in the state of São Paulo. Wellyda first got noticed in 2011 after winning a race in the elite category in Mogi das Cruzes. She also won the Volta do Futuro (Brazil’s most important competition for young cyclists under 18 years old) in 2012 and again in 2013. Since then she has been regularly called to join the Brazilian national team.

The young athlete is 17 years old and shares her lodging with five other young women. She wins most of the races in which she competes in national territory, in Track as well as Road Cycling. With the experience of someone who has already competed in Pan American Championships in Guatemala and Mexico as well as in last year’s World Championships that took place in the Netherlands, Wellyda only thinks about training so that the greatest dream in her career can come true: representing Brazil in the Rio 2016™ Olympic Games.

“I miss my parents and that is the hardest part but in order to achieve the dream of being a professional cyclist I must overcome any adversity. I usually see my family every three month mostly on holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve”, Wellyda says. She enjoys painting her fingernails the colours of the Brazilian flag whenever she competes. “Cycling is my life. I train from Monday to Saturday, three hours each day and, in my spare time, I enjoy going to church or the zoo and simply hanging out with friends”.

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