Friday, 10 August 2012

No Gold for Houvenaghel.

Not even her third bike!
I see from Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph that Wendy Houvenaghel believes that she and Northern Ireland have been robbed of an Olympic medal by Team GB Cycling. In order for her to have gained a gold medal in the ladies team pursuit in common with her team mates, Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King she would have had to have raced in the first round, the semis or the final. As at the world championships in Australia some four months ago she was a member of the four woman squad. She was not selected to race in Melbourne and her compatriots broke the world record each time they raced there.

We then arrive in London and the trio selected for the qualifying round are Rowsell, Trott and King, the world record holders. They win their race in another world record time. The following day is the semi final and Houvenaghel was told, seemingly by the head coach, that the same line-up was being retained. Surely not a surprise and surely a sensible decision. She states that with less than one hour to the race one of the selected girls was vomiting, but that as the race team had already been declared the line up had to be retained. The result? Yet another win and yet another world record. The selectors then had to decide which three girls should race in the final. Should it be the threesome which had raced five successive world records, albeit that one of their number had been sick earlier in the day, (might that have been nerves?), or should Houvenaghel be brought in?  She tells us that in training, a week before the Olympic final, with her in the line up a faster time was posted than what turned out to be the time in the final. I feel sure that the pros and cons would have been weighed up, but I am not surprised that the ultimate decision was to keep the same line up. The aim for the coaches and selectors was to ensure that the gold medal was won, not that all four squad members should come away with a medal because all four had raced at least once in the competition. In the final the selected threesome raced to yet another world record.

Where I believe GB Cycling have let Houvenaghel down is in their man management skills. She is reported as saying that she was informed that there would be changes after the first round. Clearly there weren't. I suspect that the Upperlands' cyclist may have been seen as a safe pair of legs, someone to bring in if any of the other three didn't perform.

Of course it is bitterly disappointing for Wendy Houvenaghel and her parents. Her feelings of resentment are entirely understandable. We are all human. We all have our dreams but she has been luckier than most in pursuing them as far as she has. I hope that she does stay in competitive cycling. It is by keeping up with and ahead of Rowsell, Trott and King that she will undermine the decision of the selectors and emphasise her contribution to British cycling.

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