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8 August 2012, 12:17
Cycling star Victoria Pendleton, from Bedfordshire, says she's relieved to be entering retirement, after picking up a gold and silver medal at London 2012.
The 31 year old, from Stotfold, reached the final of the women's sprint competition without breaking sweat but when she met her great Australian foe in the best-of-three decider she was foiled in dramatic fashion.
Pendleton edged the first race in the tightest of photo finishes but was later relegated for leaving her lane - much to the dis-satisfaction of a packed and partisan velodrome.
Meares led out the second race and, after cleverly forcing Pendleton to take the initiative earlier than she wanted to, romped to victory down the straight.
Pendleton, her voice cracking as she unsuccessfully fought back tears, insisted she was more than happy to be leaving her last Olympics with a silver to add to the gold she had already won in the keirin.
Pendleton's journey to London 2012 has been a turbulent one, with her sports scientist fiance Scott Gardner (pictured with her, right) forced out of the British Cycling fold due to their relationship and latterly reinstated to prime her for the pressures of a home Games.
"I'm just relieved it's all over,'' said Pendleton, who won her first Olympic gold at Meares' expense in Beijing four years ago.
"People are asking me if I'm disappointed I lost but I'm just happy that it's over.
"This has been the hardest four years of my whole life. Coming in as Olympic champion and with a home Games to live up to, you just can't imagine it.
"Of course I'm disappointed not to have won two golds, that would have been perfect, but I'm just overwhelmed with the feeling right now that I never have to go through this again.
"A goal coming into the Olympics was to get onto the podium at least once so I think a gold and silver surpasses that because there have been so many points over the last four years when I thought I wasn't going to make it.
"It would be my worst nightmare right now to relive the last week of my life - hanging around, waiting for the next track session...the expectations have been too much.
"But it's been worth it. It's been phenomenal here for the last few days.
"Just being here is something I'll never forget. It's been such a landmark in my life and probably the most significant thing that has ever happened to me. It's been so special.''
Victoria's future will now be filled by planning her wedding to Gardner and enjoying her new-found freedom.
"I'm never going to wear a skinsuit again. I'm going to continue cycling to keep fit and that is it,'' she said.
"Getting married is high in the agenda and I'm looking forward to trying other sports again, going skiing, doing normal stuff I've basically stayed away from for the last 10 years because I've been so dedicated to getting this right.
"I'm looking forward to having a bit more of a life. The world is my oyster.''