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 Pressure grows on British athletes 6 months before the Games
January 26, 2012 06h18PM {data}2012-01-26{/data}{hora}18:18{/hora} {data}2012-01-26{/data}{hora}18:21{/hora}

Victoria Pendleton is one of the favorites to win gold in London 2012. . Photo: AFP

Victoria Pendleton is one of the favorites to win gold in London 2012.
Photo: AFP

With six months until Britain hosts the Olympics for the first time in 64 years, the pressure is cranking up on the athletes expected to deliver a gold rush on home soil.

"The gravity and weight of a home Olympics ... it's terrifying and exciting at the same time," Olympic sprint cycling champion Victoria Pendleton said on Thursday.

"Sometimes I question myself," she added. "Do I have the ability to deal with the pressure?"

It was cycling that produced the most British champions in Beijing ¿ eight ¿ and Pendleton knows just how difficult it will be to defend her sprint title in London four years on.

After all, she denied home favorite Guo Shuang her moment of glory in China and now fears her rival will want to upstage her in London.

"China is a very big threat just for the fact the Guo Shuang came third at the Olympics, she has been second at the worlds, she was selected to be the champion in Beijing," Pendleton said. "So she definitely has some kind of revenge thing going on there.

"As I stole away her opportunity, I'm sure she will be very keen to take mine back ... she'll want to level the playing field a bit. Who wouldn't?"

But Pendleton has a potentially decisive advantage over Shuang: Regular circuits testing the new velodrome in east London, which opened last February.

"I've been on the track a few times now ... so it's getting a little bit more familiar," she said. "I wish it was easy (to get there more) but the security is still very, very high on the park with all the construction still under way."

The finishing touches to the velodrome have to be completed by next month when the Olympic test event takes place ¿ and Pendleton must secure qualification for the world championships and, of course, the 2012 Games.

"I'm ahead of where I was at this point in the last Olympics cycle," she said. "I have a lot of leg speed but not much strength. I'm pleased I've managed to develop the things I thought were weak to be a more complete athlete by the games."

Money is less of an issue. As one of the stars of British sport, Pendleton says she has become "self sufficient," thanks in part to her sponsorship deals, with haircare brand Pantene making her a "beauty ambassador" on Thursday.

But nothing less than glory will satisfy Britain's leading track cyclist in August, having collected one of the country's 19 golds in a 47-medal haul in Beijing.

"Being part of the British cycling team you feel like if you're not winning, it's not good enough," she said. "Anything less than a gold medal is a failure. That sounds harsh, but that's the way it is to be part of this program. It's horrible in a way."

And for the next six months the "Olympics are the only thing that matter."

"It feels like it's life or death, even though that's ridiculous because it's just another bike race," she said. "There's a huge amount of prestige at stake and we all want to do well. Every gold medal would feel like double gold if it's at home."

Whether the Olympics leave a lasting legacy by inspiring the champions of the future is still unclear despite being at the heart of London's winning bid. Pendleton is not even being consulted.

"We haven't really had much input in the development of the next wave of talent coming through or anything like that," she said.

The eight-time world champion expects that could just be to allow her to focus on the short-term priority for every British Olympian: Helping the country match its fourth-place finish in Beijing in August.

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