Ungracious Wendy Houvenaghel furious after missing out on a medal at the velodrome
A British cyclist who missed out on Team GB's extraordinary haul of medals at the velodrome, after being overlooked by selectors, has launched an astonishing attack on her team-mates and British Cycling.
Beijing silver medallist Wendy Houvenaghel said her dreams of gold in London had been shattered after she was refused a ride in this year's women's pursuit. She said her treatment had been "horrific" and that at 37 she was the victim of ageism.
She also slammed other riders including Laura Trott, one of the darlings of the Olympics.
Houvenaghel was a reserve in the all-conquering women's pursuit team but was furious after she failed to get a ride in any of the races at London 2012. Instead, the trio of Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell smashed the world record every time they went out and took a stunning gold. Had Houvenaghel been given a single race, she argues, she, too, would have got a medal.
The clearly bitter Northern Irish rider told the Belfast Telegraph: "I have been very loyal to British cycling over the last six years and I feel the way they have treated me has been very unjust."
She insisted that in training the team had been faster with her in it and claimed that she was dropped because of her age and the London Olympics' focus on youth. "There was an obvious rider who could have been replaced [in the team]" she told the paper, but said British cycling coach Shane Sutton refused to pick her. "In that 10 second burst from him my Olympic dream was shattered and everything that I had worked for over the last six years just went up in smoke."
She also launched an attack on an unnamed rider, thought to be Trott, who is known for throwing up after races. Houvenaghel said she was "compromised" by being sick but was still chosen for the final.
The Beijing silver medallist said she left the velodrome before the final on Saturday, and made it clear she was not on good terms with Trott and King, the two younger members of the trio.
"Team-mates? That's a very interesting term to use," she said. "I packed my bags in the apartment, saw my team-mates and nobody spoke to me. That's professional sport for you, I'm afraid. I'm aggrieved by the whole experience. It has just been horrific."
The other unlucky rider was Andy Tennant, who was the reserve in the men's pursuit team. Like Houvenaghel he too failed to get a ride, and therefore a medal, at the velodrome. He, however, has kept his counsel.
The final unlucky rider was Jess Varnish. The 21-year-old partnered Victoria Pendleton in the women's team sprint competition and the pair were favourites to win gold. In their first run they set a new world record. However it was beaten by the Chinese team later that round.
In the semi-final they obliterated Ukraine and looked sure to win the first gold of the cycling competition. However, they were disqualified after Pendleton took over from Varnish fractionally too soon. While Pendleton went on to win gold in the women's keirin and silver in the sprint, Varnish went home with nothing as the team sprint was her only event.
That may have been galling, but Varnish went no further than posting a message on Facebook saying she was "disappointed".