Victoria's quest

TRACK queen Victoria Pendleton insists she can silence the partisan Chinese support and clinch Olympic cycling gold in Beijing this summer. The 27-year-old Stotfold girl will be the favourite for sprint gold following her World Championship success in Man

TRACK queen Victoria Pendleton insists she can silence the partisan Chinese support and clinch Olympic cycling gold in Beijing this summer.

The 27-year-old Stotfold girl will be the favourite for sprint gold following her World Championship success in Manchester earlier this year - but will find the atmosphere at the Loashan Velodrome a world away from anything she has experienced previously.

More than 9,000 Chinese fans will cram into the arena to cheer on home favourite Guo Shuang, while Union Jacks will be in short supply after tickets awarded to Team GB were kept to a minimum.

But the former Fearnhill School pupil, who threatened to quit cycling after finishing ninth at the Athens Olympics in 2004, insists she can live up to her favourite tag and ensure it is British voices that are heard when the medals are dished out.


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"To be heading to Beijing as the favourite is the ideal position to be in - it does bring its own pressure and people do expect me to win but that doesn't really bother me," said Pendleton.

"But it's vitally important that I don't stop improving and keep pushing the boundaries I set myself to stay at the top.

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"It's going to be really close and I know Guo Shuang is desperate to win the gold in front of her home fans. It's going to be intimidating but I'm really looking forward to it.

"It's just a shame virtually none of our loyal fans, the fans that follow us across the world, will get the chance to watch us compete on the biggest stage.

"The Chinese have given the team about 10 tickets between us to make sure the home support dominates and that's not right.

"People are going to raise their level of performance for the Olympics and I've got to make sure I do the same thing."

Since her Athens disappointment, Pendleton has gone on to land three world sprint titles, one keirin gold and two team sprint crowns, while she has also helped herself to two silvers to go with the Commonwealth Games sprint gold she won in 2006.

And Pendleton believes the harsh lessons learned in Greece four years ago have played a major role in the athlete she has become today.

"I'm a completely different athlete to the one I was when I went to Athens," she added.

"I underestimated everything in 2004 - the whole environment was surreal and it took me some getting used to.

"But I'm glad I went because I learned so much from that experience and I won't make the same mistakes again."

Meanwhile, Pendleton singled out her former Etonbury Middle School teacher Mrs Smith as a key factor in her rise to stardom.

Pendleton was full of praise for the inspirational duo as Dame Kelly Holmes' National School Sport Week - a government initiative supported by Norwich Union - ticks ever closer.

"I had lots of sports teachers who were really helpful to me but the one that stands out was Mrs Smith," she added.

"She really encouraged me to go faster and faster and to stay involved in sport."

National School Sport Week is a government initiative managed by the Youth Sport Trust and supported by Norwich Union with the aim to engage more than three million children in sport, which kicks off on June 30.

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