Long time readers will know I love getting into the backgrounds of athletes, because they show so many different aspects of goal achievement. In Victoria’s case I want to focus on hard work and setbacks…
I watched a great documentary about Victoria Pendleton in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics, and as a gold medal winner from Beijing, the pressure on her to simply repeat that feat in her home games is huge.
Of course, it’s not as easy as that, and her story shows that it’s not been easy in many ways, for a long time.
In the documentary, she spoke of her father, and said that if she used the expression ‘pushy parent’ she wouldn’t be a million mile away from the truth. So, a pushy parent cyclist, who expected her to get into cycling too.
She showed promise early on, and kept with it, almost because it had become a habit, and when she really began to rise through the ranks, she got a place at the world cycling school in Geneva.
That didn’t go well, not at all, because she clashed with the head coach there, who kept telling her she was not good enough, and/or doing things wrong. In the end, it was a visit by British Cycling’s psychologist that had her breaking down and returning to the fold of the national cycling system back in the UK.
That was only shortly before the Athens Games though, and not enough time for things to gel, and she didn’t get anywhere in those games – she describes it simply as ‘failure’.
On the verge of retiring, it was only the same psychologist who kept her going, promising to stay with her and support her mentally.
It was after this that Pendleton got to the peak of her powers, dominating her events. The coaching team was working well together, and the closely knit team went into the 2008 Olympics full of confidence.
There was a problem though – she had fallen in love with Scott, one of the key coaches, and that was a clear breach of accepted protocol. They both knew it. The head coach wanted to sack Scott immediately when he found out, but realised there was no-one else who could do as good a job, so he agreed to keep it a secret between them.
When Pendleton won gold, she says she felt a relief and numbness that she had achieved her goal, but did not know what was about to come, because on the same day, the head coach revealed the details of the secret relationship in the camp.
Scott left the setup with immediate effect, and Pendleton says that what should have been her happiest day became the saddest day of her life.
You have to wonder if there was some kind of payback from the head coach by choosing to reveal it on that day. Words like ‘unprofessional’ and ‘betrayal’ were used, and Pendleton was viewed as an outcast, particularly when she chose to continue being coached by Scott.
After Beijing, her form dipped, and her dominance of the sport was not the same as it had been, so in the run up to London, it was decided, against the head coach’s wish, to bring Scott back into the coaching set up, to try and get Vicky as best prepared as possible for a medal shot.
Classic case of sports politics.
When it suited British Cycling to keep her relationship quiet, they did, but after she had won gold, on the *same day* in fact, they were happy for it all to hit the fan.
Then a few years later, when winning medals is again the top priority, guess what, Scott the outcast is suddenly brought back in.
This kind of thing is rife in sports, and shows that there are often elements outside your control when it comes to your goals. There are also expectations from others, because had the 2012 Games not been in London, Pendleton would probably have retired.
Unlike the younger, upcoming athletes, who take the gruelling training in their stride, it’s a massive strain for Pendleton, who longs for the post-London 2012 time when she has no more training for the first time in well over a decade, and can eat and drink what she wants, for example.
Let’s not forget that work and sacrifice needed. How about training 6 days a week, for 10 years!! Fancy it? Well, that’s what Victoria had to do, and if your goal needs that kind of intense dedication for year after year, you had better be prepared to pay that price.
So, if you get the chance to watch Pendleton at London 2012, look past the skin suit and the helmet, look past the obligatory TV interview sound bites, and think of the person behind it – think to your own goal whatever it may be, and give a nod to the efforts of Pendleton over all those years.
Let me know what you think! Leave a comment, or share, like tweet, etc!
‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
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