16 Oct 2016

Meares retires from cycling

3:13 pm on 16 October 2016

Australian cycling champion Anna Meares has announced her retirement after a stunning career, including six Olympic medals.

Australian cyclist Anna Meares.

Australian cyclist Anna Meares. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

There was some speculation Meares would carry on until the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, but the retirement will take immediate effect.

Meares said it was hard to hang up her cleats after 22 years in the sport but was "really excited about the doors opening in to the next chapter of my life".

The announcement brings down the curtain on the career of arguably Australia's most decorated cyclist, which saw Meares compete at four Olympic Games.

After winning gold in the 500-metre time trial and bronze in the sprint in Athens in 2004, Meares produced one of sport's greatest comebacks when she won sprint silver at Beijing 2008 just seven months after breaking her neck in a crash.

She powered to her first sprint gold medal in London four years ago, taking down famed British rival Victoria Pendleton.

The 33-year-old also carried the flag at the opening ceremony of this year's Rio Games and won bronze in the keirin.

She said she would hold off on a retirement announcement until she had time to process her Rio performance, but her tears after finishing 10th in the sprint hinted that her illustrious career was finished.

"The reason that I took some time to myself after Rio, I wanted to remove myself from that environment and get over some of the emotions attached with the Olympic Games," she said on Channel Nine's Wide World Of Sports on Sunday.

Meares said the lure of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was strong, but not quite enough considering what she went through physically to prepare for this year's Olympic Games.

"Some people aren't aware that just to get to Rio I had six cortisone injections through my spine, had to change tack for six months leading into it," she said.

"And to achieve the things I have, I feel satisfied and happy to step aside from the sport and try something new and different."

On top of her Olympic success, Meares has climbed to the top of the podium at the world championships 11 times and won five Commonwealth Games gold medals, carrying the flag at the 2014 Glasgow Games.

Cycling Australia hailed Meares as the greatest female track cyclist in history and said she set new benchmarks and broke down barriers in seemingly every race.

The Queensland native said she wanted to be remembered for her resilience and strength, rather than just her success on the track.

Anna Meares

Photo: Meares won silver at the Beijing Olympics just months after breaking her neck. (Australian Story)

"I am really proud I have stuck around for as long as I have and, while some people think I have made it look easy, I had to work so hard to stay on top," she said.

"And I have been challenged extensively throughout my career and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of those challenges.

"I feel that I have grown with each experience and they have left me a better athlete, a better person."

Her success on the track also garnered plenty of accolades off it.

She won the 'Oppy' Medal as Australia's best cyclist in 2008 and 2012 and was named the Australian Institute of Sport's athlete of the year in 2007 and 2011.