Australia’s most decorated Olympic cyclist, Anna Meares, will lead the Australian Olympic Team as Chef de Mission for the Paris 2024 Games.
Meares won five Olympic medals across her storied track sprinting career, including gold on debut in the 500m time trial at Athens 2004, and sprint gold at London 2012.
At Beijing 2008, she won silver in the sprint just seven months after breaking her neck in a crash.
She was flag bearer for the Australian Olympic Team at Rio 2016, where her bronze medal in the keirin made her the first Australian to win individual medals at four consecutive Olympic Games.
Meares said it would be an enormous privilege to serve Australia’s athletes as Chef de Mission.
“The athletes are the very heart of everything that is the Olympic Games,” Meares said.
“Every athlete comes with a story, an ambition and a feeling of great pride in representing their country. My job is to ensure we provide the right environment for all of them as they strive for Olympic success, enjoy their experience as an Olympian, and allow all in Australia to learn about their story and connect through sport.”
Meares’ own story as an athlete is inspirational.
She took up track cycling after watching Kathy Watt at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. However, the nearest velodrome was in Mackay, more than 300km from the family home in Middlemount, Queensland.
After a two-year sacrifice of driving Anna and her sister Kerrie to Mackay each week, her parents moved the family to Rockhampton.
That began the journey of an exceptional cyclist, who finished her career with 26 world championship medals including 11 gold, the most of any female track cyclist. She won the Oppy Medal in 2008 and 2012.
AusCycling’s Chief Executive Officer, Marne Fechner, said Meares will be an outstanding Chef de Mission for the Australian team.
“Anna lives and breathes the qualities that will make her a phenomenal leader of the Australian Olympic Team. Her commitment, passion, tenacity and pride in her nation are second-to-none,” Fechner said.
“She has shown the world what it takes to succeed at four Olympic Games, and she’ll bring that experience to serving this generation of Australian athletes in Paris.
“The Australian cycling community should be very proud to see Anna appointed to such a distinguished role.”
Chef de Mission #Paris2024 @AUSOlympicTeam 🙏🏻— Anna Meares (@AnnaMeares) November 21, 2022
Honoured to fulfil this role, to be a part of the team again but this time behind the scenes to help foster success for others. Overwhelmed by the positive response! THANK YOU. #timetogettowork pic.twitter.com/o6B5bAkmKY
Earlier this year, Meares served as general manager for Australia’s team at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where Australian won 178 medals, including 18 medals in cycling.
Meares said it would be important to foster a positive team environment, noting that there will athletes from over 30 sports spread across Paris.
“The feeling they are all part of the Australian Olympic Team is important to them. My job is to help bind us altogether and give them a sense of home away from home,” Meares said.
The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will run from July 26 to August 11.
Feature photo: Graham Watson