Defending women’s sprint champion, cyclist Anna Meares, has had a devastating loss – missing out on a medal and finishing 10th place. But, in the face of it all, she has proven why she deserved to be team captain and flag bearer.

Speaking to Kate Bates on Channel 7 after her final event, Meares reflected on her career in the midst of the swirl of emotions that must have weighed heavily just after finishing up her Olympics campaign.

“9th to 12th, I must admit, that’s brutal… getting put out for a 9th to 12th,” said Meares. “But that’s the Games… I put these colours on, I ride hard.”

“I know there will be a lot of criticism and opinion around my result in this event and believe me there’s no one who will criticise me more than me,” she said tearfully afterwards. 

“I’ve revelled in the role of team captain and flag bearer, but for the first time in 22 years, my body, I just couldn’t get any more out,” she said. “It’s just hard to end my Olympic campaign here in Rio in that fashion. “My legs gave way.”

Ad. Article continues below.

The ride is likely to be her last Olympic one, but she has managed to achieve her dream of winning a medal, winning her sixth one – a bronze – on Saturday at the keirin event.

Anna has said she’ll be taking a break after the end of her Rio campaign, before deciding what her plans for the future are, saying, “A holiday, some chocolate and a mighty strong glass of rum.”

“I want to give myself the opportunity to be removed from this,” Meares said. “It’s just hard to end my Olympic campaign here in Rio in that fashion.”

But she has handled the loss like the true legend she is, giving at least 10 media interviews soon after the ride-off.

She also thanked everyone – particularly her coach and loved ones – for their support, including the Aussie population in her speech.

Ad. Article continues below.

“I just would like to take this opportunity to thank some people, in particular my coach Gary West. In May that last year I was emotionally broken and exhausted, and I picked up the phone to ring him to tell him that I was done, I was quitting.”

“He knew something was up because I couldn’t talk. He read it, told me a story and shared an experience and said, ‘You owe me, you owe this sport nothing but everyone on this team loves you and you need somewhere to go to be surrounded by positive people so just come to training for that reason’. And I did and it got me here.”

“To all of Australia, thank you. I’m a big girl now, but I once was a little girl that just had a dream and I’ve lived that dream for twenty-two years, I’ve been immensely proud to wear these colours and I hope you’ve been proud even in the low moments with how I’ve represented you.”

What would you say to Anna?