Wendy Houvenaghel says decision to leave her out of team pursuit squad was 'vindictive'

Said British Cylcing promised her a place, and Rowsell was ill before the ride

by Sarah Barth   August 7, 2012  

Wendy Houvenaghel world track champs 09 © Photosport Intl

Wendy Houvenaghel has slammed British Cycling for denying her the chance to win a gold medal for Northern Ireland at the Olympics.

The 37-year-old has said that the decision to leave her out of the team pursuit line-up was vindictive, and that if she was on board, the world record could have been faster than it was - as she was capable of winning the race 'with her eyes closed'.

In the end, a team made up of Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott won gold at the weekend.

Houvenaghel claims that Rowsell was struggling with illness hours before the race started, but British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton told Houvenaghel that she would still not be in the race.

Houvenaghel told Press Association Sport: "I feel particularly aggrieved that the head coach made the decision to put in a rider who wasn't 100% 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."

She added: "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."

27 user comments

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Disappointing comments Wendy. Lots of hard decisions have to be made, the girls won gold and set a new world record. Be proud and take it on the chin, I do not see Sir Chris Hoy, smashing everyone over Mr Kenny's inclusion and subsequent gold. Poor form!

posted by palacetim [9 posts]
7th August 2012 - 8:47

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Keep your grief private. She may have a point, I know nothing of what goes on in training, but when the girls set a new WR and win gold, any type of complaint is going to seem like sour grapes, whether it is based in reality or not. A hard one to swallow but that is the reality of top end sport. We haven't heard Varnish kick off about Pendleton, have we?

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
7th August 2012 - 8:47

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Vindictive? I don't know. Vindicated? Thanks to a gold medal and a world record, most definitely. Someone close to Wendy should have told her to keep quiet.

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posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
7th August 2012 - 9:53

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Disappointed with this outburst. The women's team smashed the world record every time they went out on the track.

They were generous in praising Wendy's role in the build up and she could have been more generous and sporting in her comments. How many other women cyclists would have loved being part of the BC set up?

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
7th August 2012 - 10:24

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Disappointing for Wendy, certainly. Vindictive though - I don't see it.

The vindictive element isn't explained by her and I don't see Shane Sutton having a beef with those from the Province - which is about all I can figure out from her moan.

The team won convincingly without 'faster' Wendy which to my (simple) mind means the coach made a good choice, probably based on a lots of facts/data and a wodge of experience.

Sounds like a Diva moment, better kept private IMHO.

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posted by mooseman [60 posts]
7th August 2012 - 11:10

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I'm going to give Houvenaghel a pass on this one. She must be heartbroken and the bitter disappointment that must come with working for years only to be denied a ride, well I can hardly imagine. Especially since at 37 it was presumably her last chance.

Not a graceful thing to say, certainly not the right thing to say, but I can only feel for her.

posted by steff [81 posts]
7th August 2012 - 11:14

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steff wrote:
I'm going to give Houvenaghel a pass on this one. She must be heartbroken and the bitter disappointment that must come with working for years only to be denied a ride, well I can hardly imagine. Especially since at 37 it was presumably her last chance.

Not a graceful thing to say, certainly not the right thing to say, but I can only feel for her.

Very well said steff.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1334 posts]
7th August 2012 - 11:43

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I thought it was a strange decision and in every sport there are always odd decisions made by those in charge. Clearly there were other factors in play like money, sponsorship or perhaps just getting the youngsters into the team early. Certainly Wendy should be allowed to sound off about it and in her situation I think I would also. Good luck to her though in her next career.

posted by jimmyd [92 posts]
7th August 2012 - 11:51

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As pointed out above, you've got to feel for her, even if there were no secret agendas or anything behind the selection.

As for the selection itself, one thing that did occur to me during interviews is that Laura, Joanna and Dani are like three giggly friends, with what appeared to be a clear bond of friendship, and with that kind of relationship, the teamwork will be even stronger. I reckon they would bury themselves for each other. Perhaps that was a factor.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3083 posts]
7th August 2012 - 12:27

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In Beijing in 2008 didn't Houvenaghel have a little swipe at Rebecca Romero for swapping sports and beating her to the gold? It struck me then that she was fiercely competitive but not much of a team player. This outburst did not surprise me too much as a result. I get she was upset given the sacrifices they have to make. What struck me, if you watch the original interview she gave to BBC Northern Ireland (which I think was the origin of the story), was that she was making much of her view that BC had deprived Northern Ireland of a gold medal. She was clearly pandering to the audience and as someone from NI it didn't cut much ice with me. Given their successes so far, I don't think there is much evidence to suggest that BC use anything else other than performance as their discriminator.

posted by scubajonny [14 posts]
7th August 2012 - 13:15

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If I was her I'd be pissed off aswell (I wouldn't make it so public, Just say i'm disappointed). Spent all that time training and building up to 2012. Then not to be used AT ALL, I think that might be more her beef. She wasn't used in any round. So could not collect a gold Sad

Thats quite shit in my eyes. But then again. Did the 5th guy get used in the mens pursuit? Thinking

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posted by Gkam84 [8798 posts]
7th August 2012 - 13:33

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Easy to read things into this and I can understand if she's not happy but it's all a bit late for a public slanging match. Mind you, the sports media will love it!

Team Pursuit should have 4 riders anyway, same as the men.

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posted by Simon E [1941 posts]
7th August 2012 - 13:36

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While comments like these are disappointing you have to remember that ALL of these Olympians (in any sport) are the cream of the crop. One aspect you have to have to be there is being ultra competitive. Competitive people IME don't take failure well and Wendy will see this as a failure outside of her control. Sadly some can keep stum, some can't.

Still sad comments to see though.

posted by 1961BikiE [80 posts]
7th August 2012 - 13:59

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steff wrote:
I'm going to give Houvenaghel a pass on this one. She must be heartbroken and the bitter disappointment that must come with working for years only to be denied a ride, well I can hardly imagine. Especially since at 37 it was presumably her last chance.

Not a graceful thing to say, certainly not the right thing to say, but I can only feel for her.

Agreed - that's why I said someone close to her should have advised her to keep schtum - for her own sake as much as anyone else's. She'll look back on this comment and regret it hugely I suspect.

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posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
7th August 2012 - 19:51

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She should take a leaf out of Vicki P's book. Disqualified twice for such minor infringements but she accepts it and moves on without a grumble. Proper class Smile

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2698 posts]
7th August 2012 - 20:56

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Having worked with SS & DB for 6 years I believe every decision made to try to ensure we get medals be it at worlds or olympics.... feel sorry for Wendy as she a really nice person but someone has to miss out.....

posted by leedgreen [28 posts]
7th August 2012 - 21:05

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Sadly there are no "dead certs" so difficult to see how Wendy can be so sure her inclusion in the team would have led to a better result.
Six World Records in six races. Can't say much better than that

I am only as insane as the insanity around me (Jens Voigt)

posted by alronald [58 posts]
7th August 2012 - 21:58

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leedgreen wrote:
Having worked with SS & DB for 6 years I believe every decision made to try to ensure we get medals be it at worlds or olympics.... feel sorry for Wendy as she a really nice person but someone has to miss out.....

WRONG. No-one had to miss out, If they have been used in ANY of the rounds, they get a medal. New Zealand used all 5 riders in the men pursuit they all got bronze and USA used 4 in the woman's pursuit and they all got silver.

BUT you don't see Andy Tennant saying anything about not getting gold, although he's only 25, he'll have more to come.

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posted by Gkam84 [8798 posts]
7th August 2012 - 22:03

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Right! If Wendy had been deemed good enough she would have rode.....or do believe SS had something against her... It's all about medals....and we got gold.....

Gkam84 wrote:
leedgreen wrote:
Having worked with SS & DB for 6 years I believe every decision made to try to ensure we get medals be it at worlds or olympics.... feel sorry for Wendy as she a really nice person but someone has to miss out.....

WRONG. No-one had to miss out, If they have been used in ANY of the rounds, they get a medal. New Zealand used all 5 riders in the men pursuit they all got bronze and USA used 4 in the woman's pursuit and they all got silver.

BUT you don't see Andy Tennant saying anything about not getting gold, although he's only 25, he'll have more to come.

posted by leedgreen [28 posts]
8th August 2012 - 10:46

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It's a funny thing, but I always thought that the Olympics were supposed to about sport. OK, I know that the whole thing has turned into some form of diplomatic p*ssing competition between great powers, and some nations (notably the yanks) don't seem to be able to believe anyone can beat them unless they are doped, but surely the athletes themselves?

And yet, not just in cycling, but I noticed in the sailing as well, the athletes are positively encouraged, certainly by the BBC commentators, to view the whole thing as though it were a life and death struggle against the evil empire. Coming 4th is death itself, and if you don't get a medal it is assumed that you are "devastated". Indeed, if you "only" get silver, you are evidently supposed to be devastated.

Was it not a famous UK saying that "it's not the winning that counts, but the taking part"?

posted by Paul M [308 posts]
8th August 2012 - 14:02

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"The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

posted by effemm [93 posts]
8th August 2012 - 15:38

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Sounds like Wendy was treated shabbily. If she'd had just one ride she'd have got the gold medal. As it is she has to retire with nothing. Sounds like she wasn't any slower than her teammates - so why exclude the one person who will never have another chance? The management should show some loyalty to their riders.

posted by nick h. [30 posts]
9th August 2012 - 0:19

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If I was only picked to ride in one of the qualifiers or whatever, I wouldn't want a gold medal. I wouldn't feel I was entitled to it.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3083 posts]
9th August 2012 - 9:41

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There is no I in Team GB.
As every member of the team always says its down to every member of the team which delivers results doctors trainers and family to name a few.
This outburst is a reflection of her character and although it sucks to be excluded maybe its this kind of attitude they didn't want.
We now have some youngsters to inspire a generation, one of the moto's of the olympics.

posted by trevalex [2 posts]
9th August 2012 - 11:26

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Perhaps we should send Micheal Winner round her house to say calm down dear it's only a race Rolling Eyes

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [582 posts]
9th August 2012 - 12:07

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It does seem to me to be a mistake not to have had a "spare" rider in the team event anyway, however I doubt this is driven by performance but by the budget cuts at British Cycling. I have a lot of sympathy for Wendy's position although I suspect criticising other members of the team (from what I've read) did not bode well for her riding in a team event.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [279 posts]
11th August 2012 - 23:23

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"There is no I in Team GB."

There is a 'me' though (and t-bag)...

posted by tarquin_foxglove [79 posts]
13th August 2012 - 12:14

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