Northern Ireland cyclist cries foul


Olympics:Northern Ireland’s Wendy Houvenaghel has accused British Cycling of treating her in a “vindictive” manner at the Olympics and denying her gold medal glory.

The 37-year-old three-time world champion claims head coach Shane Sutton selected an unwell rider, Joanna Rowsell, ahead of her. And Houvenaghel believes that after years of hard work building towards London 2012 she deserved to be selected to ride in at least one round of the team pursuit.

Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott won gold at the weekend, but because she had not raced, Houvenaghel left the Games empty-handed. On being told she would not be selected for the final, the Northern Irishwoman wished her team-mates luck, left the velodrome and moved out of the athletes’ village.

She said: “I’ve been treated really shabbily by an organisation which I have been dedicated to for six years, have won many medals for and have been a key member of the team pursuit team.

“To not allow me to ride in a three-minute race, which I can do with my eyes closed, practically, and let me pick up my Olympic gold medal was just vindictive and something which is going to take a lot of getting over.”

There was nothing lacking in the performances of Rowsell, King and Trott, who set a run of world records, but Houvenaghel suggests they might have gone even faster had she been picked. Rowsell, according to Houvenaghel, was not feeling her best before the second round, effectively a semi-final, but she nevertheless raced because the team had been declared.

Then Houvenaghel was told to prepare to race in the final against the United States, only for Rowsell to keep her place. “I feel particularly aggrieved that the head coach made the decision to put in a rider who wasn’t 100 per cent well on the start line twice.

“Thankfully the girls did go on to win their race but perhaps had I been allowed to do my job that world record could have been faster. We had done faster times in training in Newport the week before with me in the line-up.

“I do feel I have been deliberately omitted from that opportunity that was mine and the opportunity to bring home a gold medal to Northern Ireland. The last gold we had was 40 years ago with Dame Mary Peters. It’s a very shocking and upsetting decision.”

British Cycling declined the opportunity to comment.

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