By David McPherson
While cycling was usually a family affair for the Meares sisters, at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games the term took on new meaning.
For the first time ever, the Meares family was watching the dynamic duo of Anna and Kerrie whiz around the track at a major cycling meet.
“It was the first time not just for our parents to witness Kerrie and I compete at a major meet, but our oldest siblings Tracey and Scott as well,” Anna says.
“At the time Mum and Dad were working seven days a week 365 days a year at a small business to help fund Kerrie and I to train and race all around the world.”
Anna’s parents Anthony and Marilyn had been putting every spare dollar toward their daughters’ pursuit of sporting excellence.
“The money they felt they had, was better spent getting us there than for them to get there to watch,” Anna says.
“The home Commonwealth Games afforded us financially a chance for the first time to share everything with them.”
Anna was feeling the pressure to perform in the 500-meter time-trial as her family watched on from the first row of the Melbourne Park venue.
“I felt excited and nervous. I didn’t want to disappoint my family. I know how hard they worked and how hard I worked,” she says.
“I was very confident in my time trialling ability being the reigning Olympic champion however I knew I would have tough competition with my sister being the reigning Commonwealth Games champion and Victoria Pendleton of England competing also.”
Anna also had injury to contend with in Melbourne, as she was still recovering from two torn discs and a protruding disc in her lower back.
Meares credits those who worked tirelessly to get her in the best condition possible.
“I had a great team that I worked with in the Cycling Australia high performance program and they did a wonderful job to manage and train me as they did to get me to the line as best I could.”
Before the event, Anna took a moment to take-in the unique support that only a home Games can produce.
“I remember how loud the crowd was and the hype and build-up of excitement whenever anyone in green and gold got on the track. They were so proud – family and strangers in the stands alike,” she says.
The time-trial would be a hotly contested one, with Anna the last rider in the event.
English rider Victoria Pendleton had already set a Commonwealth record with a time of 34.662 seconds when the 22-year-old Meares got her chance to take to the track.
Meares thundered around the track in a time of 34.326 seconds, winning her the gold by just 0.336 seconds.
She high-fived her family as she circled the track in the immediate moments of post-ride celebration, then hugged Kerrie infield as the tears began to flow.
She says the Games were one of the formative battles in what would become a long and hotly contested rivalry with the English track star Pendleton.
“The rivalry was in its infancy then and that’s why the Commonwealth Games are great. They are the chapter marker or lead into something great that can grow through time and competition in sport.”
Meares would go on to win another four Commonwealth Games golds, cementing her place as a Commonwealth Games legend.
Despite her retirement in 2016, Meares will still feature at GC2018, this time through a velodrome named in her honour.
The Anna Meares Velodrome was purpose built for the Gold Coast Games next year.
“To know one day when I am long gone, my name in this sport will remain through this is extremely touching.” she said.
“The velodrome itself is beautiful, and it will be fast. That’s what I am looking forward to.”