Steve: Hi, this is Steve from Calibre Fitness, I’m here with Anna Meares. How are you, Anna?

Anna: Good, Thank you.

Steve: Anna, you entered the sport of cycling at the age of 11. With the assistance of your parents you travelled the 600km round trip from home to Mackay on weekends to compete. This is amazing determination and motivation at such a young age. What was it that inspired you to get into cycling and what drives you even now?

Anna: I just did it because my older sister Kerrie did it. My mother’s rule was that she wouldn’t take her 4 kids to 4 different sports, so the other ones had to follow and because I’m the youngest in the family, I never actually got to choose a single sport to participate in. Kerrie and I were watching the 1994 Commonwealth games and saw Kathy Watt win gold for Australia and that’s what kind of sparked the cycling interest. We were just very fortunate to have parents who were willing to go the whole 9 yards for us and give us a good example of what it was to be committed to something.

Steve: Yeh, sure. So you had your sister to thank for all your success, haha.

Anna: Haha, most of it.

Steve: So, as you said, your sister Kerrie is also an Australian cyclist. How competitive were you two growing up?

Anna: Very competitive. Not just us two, but also our older brother and sister as well. We were only a year apart in age, so we were together all our lives growing up. We were pretty great mates and still are. But, yeh, it was pretty heated at times. Sometimes it got a bit physical, sometimes it was psychological. She was a bit bigger in the body, so she could push me around a little bit, but I was a bit smarter, so I made it difficult for her on occasions, haha.

Steve: Haha, but I think that’s pretty normal between siblings growing up.

Anna: Yeah.

 Steve: What do you love about the sport and what’s your favourite cycling event?

Anna: One of the things I love about cycling is that it’s really social. As much as it can be a very individual-based sport, everyone is engaged. You always go with other people whether it’s riding on the road, working out in the gym or spending time on the ergo-bike or even in the velodrome; you’re always around other people and that’s one of the things I really love about it. My favourite event on the track is the 500m time trial, funnily enough the only event that’s not an Olympic event now.

 Steve: How much of cycling do you think is psychological and what psychological skills do you think you have learnt to get you through race meetings?

Anna: I think everything in life is psychological. When you talk percentages, I’m not really sure, but psychologically in terms of sports psychology, I’ve had a lot of help over the years in being able to dissect and analyse and determine what works and what doesn’t work, what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are and how I can be better placed in my mind to allow my best possible performance to come out physically. So yeah, I’ve leant a lot in my time about being patient, about dealing with failure, about communicating with people, about expectation and pressure. You name it; there are a lot of things that that question could roll into.

 Steve: What do you consider to be your main strength as a cyclist?

Anna: Oooooh, that’s a good question. Um, as a sprint cyclist, I’d say immensely my best strength is making decisions under pressure and physically, I’d probably say my booty... It’s my engine.

 Steve: Yep, sure, haha! At the London Olympics last year, you won a gold medal in the sprint and a bronze medal in the team sprint, how happy were you with your overall London Olympics performance and how much pressure did you feel going into the sprint final, leading Victoria Pendleton 1-0.

Anna: Ahh, when you’re in the moment of a race like that, leading 1-0, you don’t think about the pressure, you’re just kind of ‘in the moment’ and you’re trying to cope with it as best you can and stick to your race plan and rely on the people around you like your coach and your sports scientists and management of the team to keep you as relaxed and composed as possible. The pressure going into London was huge; I was really pleased with my Olympics experience in 2012. I would have really liked to have medalled in the Kirin, but I think disappointment there really allowed me to appreciate my success in the sprint.

 Steve: Yeh, sure. Was that an especially sweet victory considering the rivalry you’ve had with Victoria Pendleton over the years?

Anna: Well, it’s hard to just base it around Victoria because in the sprint, you have to beat 6 different women over 3 different days to be the victor. It definitely added to it as she was the best in the world for such a long period of time and she dominated the individual sprint like she did. So to be able to line up against the best at an event like the Olympic Games and to come away successful was huge. But, I really don’t know where I’d rate it on my list of achievements over my career because there’s been some really great ones as well and they’re not always gold or being on the top step. Sometimes my favourite moments of my career have been winning Silver medals or even just lining up for a certain race.

 Steve: You suffered a fall at the third round of the World Cup circuit in Los Angeles in January 2008, 7 months out from the Olympics, fracturing your c2 vertebra; you dislocated your right shoulder, suffered torn ligaments and tendons, a heavily bruised right hip and skin abrasions. Amazingly, you were back on the bike just 10 days later, somehow managed to secure a spot on the Australian team and then went on to win a silver medal in the Women’s individual sprint. Where does this super-human mental strength and determination come from and what keeps you motivated and makes you ‘tick’ as an athlete?

Anna: I think my stubbornness comes from my father. My drive, I think comes from the brush-off effect of having a family upbringing and parents like I had. I think it’s also in my nature as well, I remember when I was at school, if I had written something in my schoolbook on a page and it wasn’t neat, I’d rip out that page and rewrite it. So I’ve always been someone with a really strong work ethic that’s a little bit pedantic, a bit of a perfectionist and I think that comes across in my ability to be able to prepare and train myself on a daily basis and to be able to compete in big competitions like the Olympics. But, what keeps me motivated is the simple fact that I don’t want to see my hard work and sacrifices, not just of myself but of my family and my friends, my team, my coach, my sponsors, there’s a really big network of people that go into making me as an athlete, successful. I don’t want to let them down. I want to get what I feel is a justified reward for all that effort.

 Steve: Yep, sure. Anna, there have been so many career highlights; you’ve won gold in the 500m time trial at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Silver in the sprint at the Beijing Olympics and earned a triple world championship crown in 2011. I’m sure it’s hard to say, but what do you consider to be the highlight of our cycling career or your most memorable win to date?

Anna: It’s so hard to say, haha. Like you said, there’s a few to choose from. I still remember what that feeling was like, looking up to the scoreboard as a young 20 year old girl in my first Olympics and winning Gold. I remember what it was like to win my first ever sprint title; my first world title back in May 2004. Even just my first junior title when I was 16. A lot of people remember the more recent titles, but there are some a long way back that mean a lot to me, especially that Silver medal in Beijing. Nah, I’m not going to do it... I’ve been asked this question a lot and I literally can’t single out one particular moment, sorry.

Steve: Haha, no... That’s fair enough! Do you have any pre-race rituals?

Anna: Ummm, I paint my nails with the Aussie flags, haha. Once I get to the track, my ritual is very repetitive because I find peace and calm in normality of routine. Especially in an environment that can amp up the nerves and adrenaline in the body, so if I can get through that routine or have some comfort in that routine it keeps me sane, I guess you could say. But I’m not too pedantic in what I have to do when I’m outside of that velodrome.

 Steve: Yep, sure. What is your typical daily routine?

Anna: I don’t have a typical daily routine, haha. It’s a hard one to describe because, Sprint Cycling, most people would think I’d do a lot of kilometres on the road, but that’s just not the case. I try to explain to people that I’m like the Usain Bolt version of the cycling world. So I spend a lot of time in the gym, a lot of time on the track, ergo bike and because its strength/power focussed, there’s no real repetition on a day-to-day basis. So, on a week basis, I might do 2-3 gym sessions, 2-3 track sessions, 1 ergo session, 6 road rides and I’d have the 7th day off.

 Steve: Yeh, sure. I’m sure there’s a lot of specific strength training that you do off the bike, in the gym, as you just mentioned. What are some of your favourite exercises or training drills?

Anna: Love the deadlift, although that’s the one exercise that can cripple me. I have an old injury to my lower back that has to be very carefully maintained, and it gets a bit grumpy when I do the deadlift, haha. I really enjoy power cleans as well along with Plyometric box jumps as well.

Steve: You’ve listed all the exercises I really don’t like to do, haha.

Anna: Really?!

 Steve: I keep it very simple, all your old traditional exercises. Umm, Anna, diet and nutrition are so important for any athlete. What’s your diet like? Do you have diet-free days and if so, what’s at the top of your bad food list?

Anna: At the top of my bad food list is anything chocolate or cinnamon donuts. Yeh, diet and nutrition is important because obviously that’s the energy we use for our body, so for us it’s important to keep the body composition between fat-free mass and fat mass. It’s all well and good to be really lean and have lots of muscle, but if it’s not actually producing speed and power on the bike, then it’s not beneficial. So we spend a lot of time working out what the best body composition is for us as individuals. So, it’s important not to overeat, I’d probably have a higher protein component to my diet because of having to feed and repair the muscles from that explosive work that we do in the gym and on the bike and keep a balance of lots of healthy salads and vegetables.

 Steve: Yeh, sure. How much down-time do you get between major competitions?

Anna: Once the competition-season kicks of, we don’t get a great deal of down-time. We generally have one international competition a month, sometimes we’ll only get 2-3 weeks in between depending on when Oceania and Nationals fall and which competitions we target. So we’re busy between November and February, it’s generally one race-meet a month leading into the World Championships. Then we get 3 weeks off at the end of each season which is generally around the Easter Period, the rest of the time we’re training full time.

Steve: Yep... and just finally, Anna, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in your cycling career?

Anna: Umm, that’s a tough one. I have a couple that I go with. One was from my first coach back when I was a teenager. He always used to tell me to pay attention to detail. The other one I really like is to always back yourself.

Steve: Yep, I like it. That’s all I have for you. I wish you all the best in the future, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you and you’ve inspired, I’m sure, every Australian.

Anna: Ohh, thank you. Too easy.