Wendy Houvenaghel announces retirement

Injury forces Northern Irish dentist turned cyclist to quit on the eve of the Commonealth Games

Olympic and Commoonwealth silver medallist Wendy Houvenaghel has announced her retirement from competitive cycling on the eve of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

During her stellar cycling career she also won three World Championship gold medals as well as numerous British and European championship titles on the track and on the road.

The 39-year-old from Co Londonderry, who now lives in Cornwall, said: “The past decade of my life has been dedicated to professional cycling and it has, for the most part, been extremely rewarding.

“I have always dedicated myself 100 per cent to my role as a natural professional sports person and I am immensely proud of my consistently high achievements from the beginning.

“It is disappointing to have to withdraw from competition at the Commonwealth Games, however, I would like to wish my Northern Irish teammates every success with their performances in Glasgow.

“It is never easy to make the final decision to end one’s sporting career. For me, this decision has been prompted by a training injury, but I will be returning to a profession which I thoroughly enjoy and where, as a woman in my thirties, I will be treated as an equal.

“I would sincerely like to thank all of the people who have supported me over the past 10 years, especially: my family, my friends, my fans and my sponsors.

“In the future, I hope to put something back into the sport but for now I am looking forward to pursuing my career in dentistry.”

Wendy graduated from Dundee Dental School in 1998 and served in the dental branch of the Royal Air Force for six years, attaining the rank of squadron leader. She only took up cycling at the age of 27 but she soon realised she had a natural affinity for the sport and turned professional in 2006.

Despite a medal-laden career, her experience of London 2012 was a particularly bitter one. As part of a four-strong team competing in the Team Pursuit event, Wendy was left out of the line-up in all three races and was forced to watch as her teammates Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell raced to the gold medal in a world record time on what became known as ‘Super Saturday’.

However, as the rules of the competition stated that only those that had competed were entitled to medals, Wendy was left desperatley disappointed. The situation was made all the worse given the fact that she felt certain the GB team chiefs would give her a ride in at least one of the rounds as she had posted excellent times in training and one of her teammates, Joanna Rowsell had taken ill hourse before one of the races.

But, she was denied her chance to shine and Wendy famously hit out at her coaches and the reactions of her teammates. At the time 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.”

Wendy had hoped that the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow would provide her with the perfect swansong to her career and an opportunity to lay some ghosts to rest. However, an injury suffered in training has put paid to that dream. Cycling’s loss is surely dentistry’s gain.

Published: 23 July, 2014 at 16:54